Larry Flynt

Posts Tagged ‘Mormon’

The Morom Moments

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

LESSONS FROM THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS

In the beginning was the Word…of one Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the controversial religious denomination commonly known as the Mormon Church. To this day, adherents revere Smith as a prophet who formulated The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ from ancient text inscribed on golden plates.

When 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney avows, “My faith is the faith of my fathers; I will be true to them,” the fathers he invokes are Joseph Smith and Smith’s successors.

In many authoritative biographies—namely those not written with the blessing of the Mormon establishment—Smith comes off as both a goodnatured grifter and a dangerous sociopath. According to ex-Mormon Kay Burningham—author of An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case Against Mormonism -the religion “was founded on deception and continues to build upon that deception.” She also asserts that Mormonism’s founders— Joseph Smith Jr. and family—“were opportunists driven to create an organization where they could acquire the social status and financial resources that they lacked.”

The story starts in 1823 when, as Joseph Smith Jr. proclaimed, an angel told him where to find sacred golden plates buried in a hill in upstate New York. However, according to Smith, it wasn’t until 1827 that he was allowed to extract the plates and begin translating what was engraved on them: a chronicle of God’s dealings with the descendants of a lost tribe of Israelites inhabiting the Americas from 2200 B.C. to 421 A.D.

Smith was mighty pleased: He had discovered God’s word, and he would bring the good news to the world. Witnesses say the religious zealot used seer stones to translate what was inscribed on the golden plates. However, skeptics suggest that Smith—a semiliterate farm boy schooled in the soaring language of the Bible—concocted The Book of Mormon out of his own fervid imagination.

This was no small achievement. Smith was a smart guy, and he had a family schooling in the art of cheating the gullible. His father, Joseph Sr., had been repeatedly charged with currency counterfeiting in Vermont in the 1820s. Joseph Jr. himself was hauled into court in the northeastern United States on multiple occasions. He was described in an 1826 New York legal proceeding as “a disorderly person and an impostor.”

According to historian Fawn Brodie, one of his preferred cons involved the help of his brother Hyrum. While visiting a neighboring household, Hyrum would secretly hide a valuable heirloom. When, days later, the victim complained that the prized object was missing, Hyrum came to the rescue. He volunteered his brother Joe Jr. to show up— for a small fee—and put “magic stones” into a hat. Joe would then put the hat over his face and stare into the stone-filled darkness to see where the lost item was—the location of which his faithful brother had already provided.

Smith said his ethical rule was, When the Lord commands, do it. This was convenient, as it was decreed by Joseph Smith that the Lord would only communicate with—you guessed it—Joseph Smith. Early on, he spoke of receiving a divine message about “plural marriage.” The Lord commanded that all Mormon men should take multiple wives and establish the tradition of polygamy. Smith’s wife at the time was skeptical.

The Mormon sect grew throughout the 1830s and 1840s, and so did the controversy. Land theft, bank fraud and cattle rustling were alleged. Historian Will Bagley describes what happened when the Mormons were forced to flee westward and resettle: “After stirring up a religious civil war in Missouri and being exiled to Illinois, Smith founded a kingdom on the Mississippi at Nauvoo, Illinois. Having secured a charter that made him ruler of a city-state and a wealthy land developer, Smith raised a private army, made himself

America’s first lieutenant general since George Washington and began seducing women and barely pubescent girls with an abandon that would make Bill Clinton blush.” Mormon converts began to look askance at sainted Joe, and today their accounts read like those of cult escapees. “When I embraced Mormonism, I conscientiously believed it to be of God,” a disaffected convert wrote in 1831. “I now know Mormonism to be a delusion.”

Mostly what the Mormon Church coveted was the property of converts and their free labor. Joseph Smith’s own personal secretary concluded that Smith and other Mormon leaders were “confirmed infidels who have not the fear of God before their eyes. They lie by revelation, swindle by revelation, cheat and defraud by revelation.”

Jailed on charges of treason, Smith—along with his brother Hyrum—ended up murdered by a lynch mob in Illinois in 1844. It’s not a surprising turn given the level of animosity that Mormons’ criminality had evoked among their preferred targets— the “filthy Gentiles” who disdained the upstart religion.

The Mormons fled still further west, looking for the Holy Land, their Zion, the paradise where they could settle without interference from the Gentiles. They discovered Zion in the sunblasted wilderness of Utah. That’s where the new prophet, Brigham Young, was presiding when 120 men, women and children traveling across Mormon territory by wagon train were slaughtered. This was the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, which historians believe was sparked by an apocalyptic hysteria that the federal government was planning to invade Utah and destroy Young’s people. The apocalypse never came to pass.

By the mid-1850s,W.M.F.Magraw—a personal friend of U.S. President Franklin Pierce—would conclude that civil law in Mormon territory was “overshadowed and neutralized [by an] ecclesiastical organization as despotic, dangerous and damnable as has ever been known to exist in any country…all alike are set upon by the self-constituted theocracy, whose laws, or rather whose conspiracies, are framed in dark corners.”

Years earlier, John Corrill—a onetime prominent Mormon official and a member of the Missouri legislature—authored A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints. Corrill, who was excommunicated in 1839, accused the Mormon leadership of “bad management, selfishness, seeking for riches, honor and dominion, tyrannizing over the people, and striving constantly after power and property.”

Laws undermined by conspiracies and outrageous privilege coupled with unbounded greed and power-maddened mismanagement: This sounds a lot like a description of Corporate America today. Perhaps this explains why our current Mormon Moment is really about the Mormon Church’s engagement and success in the corporatocracy.

In this context, think about Mitt Romney: Here is a man who, while heading the leveraged buyout firm Bain Capital, got rich as an opportunistic “vulture capitalist” by exploiting and plundering companies built on the hard work of others. Romney indeed keeps the faith of his fathers.

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Christopher Ketcham is a New York City-based freelance reporter who has written for Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Salon.com and many other publications and Web sites. He can be reached at CKetcham99@MindSpring.com. More of his work can be found at ChristopherKetcham.com.


Mitt Romney: Greed-Run-Wild Apostle

Monday, July 9th, 2012

At first I thought, Why not a Mormon for President? I know it’s a weird religion, what with those kinky undergarments they wear and the bizarre mumbo jumbo about some guy who claimed he found divine wisdom on some tablets given to him by an angel and then came on like he was the next Moses.

But what’s the big deal? If you’ve ever looked closely at those other, more mainstream religions our past Presidents claimed to believe in, they’re equally absurd. That’s the whole point of religion: invoking some higher power to answer the unanswerable about the purpose of existence when we humans have reached the limits of fact and logic. So claims to divine explanation are, of course, inevitably kooky.

If it were just a matter of crashing the glass ceiling to make the point that a devout Mormon is no less qualified, by virtue of his irrational faith, to be President than is a born-again Christian or a flaming papist, I could see voting for Mitt Romney. But then, as the Republican primaries unfolded, I realized all of this religion stuff is beside the point. Romney, in his pursuit of the ill-gotten gains of enormous wealth accompanied by his unbridled lust for political power, is clearly no more concerned with the moral obligations of his religion than John F.

Kennedy was when he balled those molls supplied by his Mafia buddies. And just like Kennedy, Romney parlayed his old man’s wealth into a successful political career, all the while claiming to be just your ordinary guy working his way up the ladder of life.

The man is a fraud, a Ken doll with a recorded-message greeting instead of a brain. Nothing he says actually reflects thought but rather a sales pitch for the convenience of the moment. Here’s a guy campaigning against Obamacare, which is nothing but a copycat program of the one Romney implemented in Massachusetts when he was the state’s governor.

Not only would Romney gut the improvement in healthcare that Obama brought about, but he also wants to compound that error by undermining Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that offer at least a modicum of cost control. Instead, the candidate and his fellow Republicans would steer consumers completely to the tender mercies of for-profit insurers.

What is most outrageously hypocritical about Romney is that while he babbles on about wasteful spending, he will not close the spending spigot that started spewing red ink after budget-balancing President Bill Clinton left office. That red ink is the direct result of the wild increase in military spending after 9/11 which George W. Bush refused to pay for by increasing taxes on the rich and instead cut them sharply. That and bailing out the banks—which caused the financial crisis—are the main sources of the run-up of the national debt.

Romney wants to do more of the same. He says we need to spend even more money on the military because the Communist government in China is a threat. What a joke! Bain Capital, the company that Romney cofounded, has been supplying those red tyrants with surveillance equipment to better monitor their citizenry.

The dire state of the U.S. economy is the result of two basic scams pulled off by the top multinational corporations, and Romney is complicit in both. The shortterm crisis was kicked off by the radical deregulation of the financial industry that allowed the formerly privately held investment banking partnerships screwing around with their own money to merge with the commercial banks that were holding the deposits of ordinary folks. It was a prescription for greed run wild until the phony securities packages exploded and the taxpayers were left holding the bag, while lots of those ordinary folks lost everything. Not only did Romney enthusiastically support that deregulation scam, but now—even after it hit the fan—he still prattles on about how we have too many regulations.

The other issue concerns the shipping of those once good-paying American jobs abroad. Not only has Romney invested in companies that do just that, but his Presidential campaign platform calls for rewarding those companies for abandoning America by ending all taxes on foreign profits.

Face it, Mitt Romney is about nothing but power and money, and the vulture-capital hedge fund named Bain Capital that enriched him is a classic tale of ripping apart vulnerable businesses and their loyal employees to make a big buck on the margin of the ensuing grief. You don’t want this guy to be the CEO of your entire country.

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Before serving almost 30 years as a Los Angeles Times columnist and editor, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of TruthDig.com, Scheer has written such hardhitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.


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