Two Changes Facing the Mormon Church

Two thorny problems are facing Mormonism, and I am certain that eventually we will see the LDS Church resculpt its message in order to continue its strategy of growth through recruitment.

You have to be able to sell your ideas, and if they are anathema to the populations you proselytize, you lose the numbers game.

If the LDS Church seeks to be seen as a mainstream religion, it will have to tweak the beliefs that are seen as peculiar.   Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency is placing Mormonism under a microscope, sometimes allowing a view of the delicate 19th Century foundation on which the church was built.

The first challenge the church faces today is cultural and much of it comes from within: Homosexuality.

The gay Mormon community will continue to exert pressure and will be aided by public opinion on national and international levels.  It will also be supported by many of the straight families of gay members.  They feel their children are entitled to fully dimensional lives.

Currently the LDS Church is telling gays, “When you have those feelings, don’t act on them.”   The gays I talk to view this as an unacceptable response.  Many don’t want to leave the church, yet fear the consequences of resisting from within.  Many others have fled and are looking for alternative  spiritual homes.

If you are a gay Mormon, tell me how you are dealing with it and what you think the future holds for Mormonism vis a vis homosexuals.

California has already moved to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” long derided by the majority of professional psychologists and psychiatrists. For an account of what it did to one young Mormon see the “Scott Burton” chapter in my book, Leaving the Fold: Candid Conversations With Inactive Mormons (you can get it free by going to http://signaturebooks.com/category/book-families/out-of-print/page/6/. Look for his name in the list of chapters). Dogs should not be disciplined using the  electro-shock methods Scott’s Mormon therapist used.

The second problem that will be difficult for the LDS Church to surmount is one of science—DNA, to be specific. The Book of Mormon tells the tale of how Jews from the Middle East sailed in what were  submersible craft to land on Mexico’s Atlantic Coast in the 6th Century BCE. The Book of Mormon says that from these original mariners descended native Americans, the people who populated the Americas. DNA research is consistently and relentlessly disclosing that native Americans came from Asia.

A noted Mormon DNA scientist, Ugo A. Perego, admits (with some twisted semantics), that native American DNA is from Asian origins. : http://signaturebooks.com/2012/09/mormon-scientist-concedes-native-american-origins/

My timetable for change?  Don’t expect the glacier to start calving soon.  Your thoughts?

Regards,

Jim

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Mitt Romney: Shape Shifting With His Mormonism

By James W. Ure, award winning author of Leaving the Fold:  Candid Conversations with Inactive Mormons.

 

Who is Mitt Romney?

He admitted in 2011 it was a question that had plagued him over the 18 years he has run for office.

As Timothy Eagan wrote in a New York Times (August 15, 2012), “In focus groups he’s described as a tin man, a shell, an empty suit, vacuous, a multi-millionaire in mom jeans.  And that’s from supporters.”

We’re not supposed to be talking about religion this campaign, but Mormonism is the fabric from which Romney is entirely woven.

This fact cannot be ignored:  Mormonism is Mitt’s barrier to self-realization.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon first and a Mormon last, shaped by a veiled and shifting philosophy that has triggered Mormonism’s persistent reinvention of itself over its 182 year history.

Romney’s flip-flopping and obfuscation are modeled on his Mormonism. The church has shifted its positions on polygamy, blacks holding the priesthood and many of the doctrines first set down by its founder, Joseph Smith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has changed its position so many times that a kind of false honesty hangs in the air like fog.

From childhood, devotion to Mormonism was ingrained in Mitt.   So was the need proselytize—to sell the church to convert new members.  The church believes its claims of growth legitimize it.  Romney longs for the numbers that will legitimize him.

As a young missionary in Paris, Romney was taught how to avoid or deflect the sticky questions that have haunted the Mormon Church since its founding in 1830 in Fayette, New York.

Missionaries are trained to make palatable the roots of the religion, which can be a tough sell:  Joseph Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from “reformed Egyptian” written on golden plates.  An angel gave him the plates on Sept. 22, 1827, along with stone spectacles called the Urim and Thummim, which allowed him to see the hieroglyphics in modern English.

It was also best that as a missionary Mitt avoid certain facts, i.e.,  Joseph Smith had a conviction for disturbing the peace in 1826 in Bainbridge, NY, based on his own admission for indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold.

A scholarly criticism of Smith and his founding of Mormonism written by Fawn McKay Brodie, (No Man Knows My History, Knopf, 1945), still haunts Mormonism.  The church has attempted to refute documented history by issuing a blizzard of pamphlets and faith-based rebuttals over the ensuing 67 years.

Some of the church’s revisionism in brief:

The issue of blacks holding the priesthood serves as an example of the church as it sways:  In 1833 Mormons were told, “No man should be held in bondage.”  Blacks had full membership.  By 1852 the message was that blacks are marked by the “Curse of Cain” and not allowed to hold the priesthood.  In 1978:  Revelation by the president of the Mormon Church allowed blacks to hold the priesthood.

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker of August 13, and 20, 2012, quotes church official Bruce McConkie saying “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody said about the Negro matter before the first day of June, 1978.”

Polygamy:  It was practiced by Joseph Smith on a sub rosa basis from 1831 or 1832 (possibly because he was caught by his wife with another woman).  Polygamy was accepted as doctrine in 1852 and was ended by proclamation in 1890 when the outcry against it became overwhelming.  It continues today by breakaway sects and the church promises its restoration at some future time.  Mormon doctrine says polygamy is being practiced in heaven now.

If I were to become active again, I could now drink Coke in public.  The Word of Wisdom (1833) preaches abstinence from tobacco, coffee, tea and alcohol.  When I was a kid caffeine was wicked and even cola drinks were proscribed by my bishop (equivalent of the priest in charge of a parish). A Coke at Boy Scout camp was confiscated.

Now only hot caffeinated drinks are proscribed, and Big Gulps filled with Coke or Pepsi abound at the church offices in downtown Salt Lake City.

The Mormon Church, like Romney, is still defining itself.  And this is the template Mitt Romney uses as he runs for president:  change on demand.  There comes a point at which he must step up and describe for all who he is, if he can.

***

 

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Surprises from World War II on the Dutch Island of Texel

Researching in preparation for writing a book can be as interesting as writing the book itself.  Maybe more interesting.  I have a writer friend who says she gets “research rapture” as she works on the background that will eventually form her stories.

What happened to my professor?

Wachtang Djobadze (or Djhobadze), my professor of art history at the University of Utah from 1960-62 (I was taking graduate level seminars with him while working on my BS), was a very interesting man.  He had mentioned fighting for “both sides” in World War II, but where did that put him?

My interest in the uprising on the Dutch Island of Texel (see previous post) was certainly sparked by my memory of his words, but never did I dream he was actually part of the so-called “Texel Uprising” in which the members of the Georgian Legion murdered their German officers and NCOs in the sleep, and in return were murdered by the German Wehrmacht even after Germany had signed a truce on May 7, 1945.

After all, some 20 million Russian soldiers fought in World War II, and he could have been anywhere in Europe or Russia.  I had always thought he had joined partisans or German-formed nationalist organizations in the Ukraine or the Caucasus.

Gelein Jansen, Texel’s local history expert, did some sleuthing after I had spent the day with him.  Here is the first cryptic email I got from him  (please note that I have seen his first named spelled with both a W and a V):

Hello Mr. Ure: we found out that the real name is Vachtang Tsjtsisjvili, his mother was Djobadze so he took her name as family name. Greetings from Texel

And here was the next email I got from Gelein:

Hello Jim, there’s a rumour that the Canadians on Texel gave the Georgians who didn’t like or dare to go back to their home land, the possibility to come over to Canada with them. Gr. Gelein. PS. He is with his original name on a list from my “spokesman” in Den Helder.

So amazingly, Wachtang was indeed fighting on Texel, this time for the German-formed 822nd Queen Tamara Battalion, and then just as suddenly, against the Germans while wearing a German uniform.

The 1st Canadian Army arrived on Texel and finally quelled the fighting on May 20, 1945.

How he escaped is another question that lingers in my mind:  did the Canadians help him?  The 228 surviving Georgians were sent by the Canadians to the Dutch mainland on June 16, 1945.   Or was he part of a small group who went by lifeboat to England a few days after the uprising?   I remember him saying he worked for a U.S. government agency, either the U.S. Information Agency or Radio Free Europe, so somehow he found his way to the U.S. zone and became useful as some kind of propagandist (just guessing at this).  He frequently talked about being at Dumbarton Oaks near Washington, D.C., an important research museum which (among other things) specializes in Byzantine art.  Its research arm is part of Harvard University.  After that he somehow found his way to Utah.  He loved the mountains here and a number of his students went with him on picnics in (as I recall), Millcreek Canyon.

A correction to my earlier blog post:  The 882nd was a battalion, not a regiment.

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Just returned from the Dutch Island of Texel

I just returned from the Dutch Island of Texel where I’m researching a sequel to my novel, SKYWRITING. I have been impatiently waiting on an particular agent response to SKYWRITING, so it seemed like a good time to do some sleuthing. First, if you have never been to Texel, GO! It’s a wonderful place and the people are handsome, friendly and interesting.

Did you know that the last battle in Europe was fought on Texel–two weeks after the war had officially ended?

Years ago I had an art history professor, Wachtang Djobadze, who dismissively told me he had “fought for both sides in the war, because war mixes things up.” Djobadze was from Georgia and I gathered he had first fought for the Russians and then was either captured or became a turncoat and fought for the Nazis (not unusual; many nationalists who fought with guns to their heads under Stalin and thought they would do better by joining the Germans). I never pursued the conversation with him because the ordinarily ebullient Georgian seemed sensitive about discussing it.

In 1945 a Georgian soldier’s group was formed by the Nazis, the 822nd Queen Tamara Regiment, and was sent to Texel to defend against a possible allied invasion of Holland. Eight hundred Georgians served under 400 German officers and NCOs. The war’s outcome was apparent to all by then–the Allied armies were already knocking on Germany’s door, and the Russians were approaching from the east. On the night of April 6, 1945, the Georgians used bayonets and knives to kill most of the Germans who commanded them. Thus began the uprising. The furious German commander brought in reinforcements and over the next six weeks hunted down the Georgians. The war in Europe had officially ended on May 7, 1945, but the Germans on Texel were relentless and brutal. As they swept this small island, flushing Georgians like quail and shooting them down, they also killed Dutch citizens suspected of helping the Georgians.

My guide and expert on the history of Texel, Gelein Jansen, took me to the many bunkers and sites of this last desparate battle and explained each of the defensive positions taken by the Georgians, who had made failed in one of their objectives in their uprising: they could not capture the artillery batteries manned by the Germans at the north and south ends of this 15 mile long island.

I went with Gelein to the Georgian Cemetery near Den Berg where about 400 men lie at rest under immaculately tended. I also saw the graves of a number of Allied airmen whose planes crashed on the island after missions to bomb Germany. They were Royal Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and included were some unknowns.

I thought I had pretty well covered things with Gelein. But there were continued surprises–including one big one. Stay tuned and I will continue the tale of the Texel Uprising. Thanks for reading my blog.

See also: What Others are Saying

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Hello World!

Welcome to the blog for Jim Ure Books.

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