On Sunday, Ryan McKnight posted more than a dozen videos of the LDS church’s 12 apostles deliberating over highly controversial contemporary issues after being emailed them by anonymous church personnel (yes, even the rat’s email address was anonymous).
The videos may not bring significant damage to the church — it’s not like any of the 12 said that you could not be Mormon and be saved, or worse, the church or salvation is false — but they certainly had several interesting nuggets.
Below is my gut reactions to 15 of them.
(Credit to The Salt Lake Tribune for each header “date,” “summary” and “quote” section. And “GR” is means gut reaction.)
Date: Feb. 15, 2012
Summary: Leaders discuss a working group that will focus on preparing to spread the Mormon message to the Islamic world.
Quote: “I don’t think [Muslim converts] have a problem being assimilated,” apostle M. Russell Ballard says, except “maybe in Utah.”
GR: Ballard, one of the older apostles, recognizes, it seems, that Utah is too conservative. (And so he recognizes that being too conservative doesn’t match with preaching, if not living, Mormonism?)
Date: June 11, 2008
Summary: LDS leaders are briefed on emerging scientific advances and their possible effect on moral questions.
Quote: “The question of students choosing performance-enhancing drugs to concentrate during tests after studying all night is already here,” says Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy. “Do any such drugs contradict the Word of Wisdom?”
GR: I wish I had thought of taking performance-enhancing drugs during college! (And I probably would not have thought about whether it violated the Word of Wisdom. Maybe the baseball scandal of this century would have made we wary. Maybe.)
Date: Feb. 21, 2007
Summary: Mormon leaders are reassured that marriage — despite earlier media reports — remains a desire of the vast majority of adults, but are warned that Latter-day Saints, like the general populace, are delaying nuptials and having fewer children.
Quote: “Separating marriage myth and fact,” says Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy, “may help our young LDS adults maintain the faith and hope they need as they seek and commit to marriage today.”
GR: In the video, Boyd K. Packer, then-president of the Quorum of the 12, also suggests that Gong is wrong to say that. Gong basically doubles down.
It was awesome.
That’s because Packer drove home is hard-lined and often hateful positions for decades (as he did in the videos) during his ministry before passing away last year. (In 2010, he suggested that gays and lesbians lied about their homosexuality while supposedly speaking for God at one of the church’s bi-annual general conferences.) For many of those years, he was still the quorum president, influencing the second most powerful governing body in the church with a heavy fist (as he did in a video).
Date: Nov. 12, 2008
Summary: LDS leaders hear about the difficulty keeping young single adults committed to the faith. The activity rate in North America at the time was 30 percent; internationally it was 20 percent.
Quote: “Young single adults are among the church’s most underutilized resources,” says Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy. “They have enormous potential, but face high risks in today’s world.”
GR: High risks! On the high seas?
Date: Dec. 3, 2008
Summary: LDS leaders are briefed about the increasing threat of piracy on the high seas and view a short clip from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Quote: “I show [this clip],” says Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy, “because, though meant in fun, Captain Jack [Sparrow] makes pirating appear good and traditional authority appear silly.”
GR: Oh, maybe on the treacherous waters, indeed! (If the church loves its youth as much as it says — or at least wants them practicing Mormonism, as seen in the video — they wouldn’t want them swashbuckling!)
But ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME, GONG!?! (Because I was kind of liking you, too, due to “marriage myth.”)
Consider also the “Pirates” films, being rated PG-13, are meant for viewers who can separate fiction from reality. (Not that not following authority is always, at least, bad.)
P.S. Are you excited that a new “Pirates” is coming out?
P.S.S. Jack not being in the teaser supposedly because of domestic violence accusations against his actor, Johnny Depp, is at best secondary as to why. We all know who Jack is! (Obviously, since we know that the apparent Lord’s anointed now do.) The time was better spent to introduce new characters (there WAS a photo of Jack in the trailer).
Date: May 15, 2008
Summary: LDS leaders discuss the faith’s welfare services and the effectiveness of its push for members to have at least a three-month, if not a year, supply of food. In 2007, 18 percent to 20 percent of U.S. Mormons had a three-month supply, while 10 percent to 15 percent had a full year. Fewer than 3 percent of international members had either.
Quote: “It would be advisable [to] have a survey through the bishops,” apostle M. Russell Ballard says. “We want to know whether we are really gaining on this thing with our members.”
GR: A Cold War culture persists in a church led by 15 men all of whom are at least 61 — they lived during the time period.
Date: Sept. 17, 2008
Summary: LDS leaders hear about what led to the housing crisis and how financial institutions took on too much risk.
Quote: “We have some commotion but no need for fear,” says Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy.
GR: Prophetic, Gong. (This one may actually be worse than the Jack Sparrow comment.) Apparently it didn’t hurt him in his campaign to move up the ranks — he is now in the presidency of the Seventy.
Date: Jan. 12, 2011
Summary: What was intended as a conversation about the LDS Church’s cybersecurity measures, turns into a conversation about Chelsea Manning’s sexual orientation.
Quote: “I’m suspicious that the news media cover up anything involving homosexuals when it would work to the disadvantage of the homosexual agenda and so on,” says apostle Dallin H. Oaks, “and I was just wondering if there was some of that in this.”
GR: Since the news media are actually supposed to UNCOVER things, a publication would probably be shut down if they were doing a “cover up.” Even failing to uncover the right things could be bad news for a real publication. So, #homophobia. #ifyoudontbelievemereadoakstalksongays
Date: June 13, 2012
Summary: General authorities hear a presentation on the history of Kurds and discuss ways to bring their faith to these people in Northern Iraq.
Quote: “The only hesitancy we’ve had is that anything we do in Kurdistan will be viewed very negatively by the Turks,” says Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy, “and we’re moving into Turkey.”
GR: I don’t know. Mehmet Okur, Jazz fans?
Wait — there is one here. The church is being uber-political again. (I’m just so used to it being that way that I almost didn’t catch it.)
Date: Feb. 18, 2009
Summary: Former Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., explains how valuable it is to the church to have active members in the Senate, who can help facilitate meetings with foreign leaders.
Quote: “Having them in there and knowing that their temple recommend is more important than their election certificate,” Smith says, “is of inestimable value.”
GR: I really can’t comment on this too much because I would get depressed.
Thomas Jefferson provided an excellent explanation for the First Amendment (you know it — “wall of separation between Church & State”), and he should read his own scripture (as every Mormon apostle should), D&C 134:9.
Gordon Smith is a theocrat and fundamentalist — he’s a leader in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had he grown up in the FLDS pastors’ circumstances, and vice versa.
Date: Nov. 11, 2010
Summary: With medical marijuana making inroads, LDS officials discuss their stance on the drug and how to talk about it with their members.
Quote: “I can’t understand our great emphasis on getting rid of tobacco to then start a project to increase marijuana,” says the late apostle L. Tom Perry. “It’s so inconsistent.”
GR: So, L. Tom Perry supports the Prohibition of the 1920s? (Probably — he gave a rather theocratic talk in April 2013.)
If so, Mr. Perry, check out Ken Burns’ documentary of the same name.
Date: May 16, 2012
Summary: Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt presents a plan for the LDS Church to work with other faiths to create a nationwide network to fight for religious freedom and against abortion and gay marriage.
Quote: “The new battleground for religious freedom is in the states,” Leavitt says. “What we need is an organization on the ground.”
GR: I’m actually VERY surprised the church hasn’t pursued this.
After all, they started a battle against gay marriage before it was an issue on the mainland — secretly, of course, starting in 1995, mobilizing Mormons near and far who had political connection and/or influence. (NOTE TO READER: Find the link to a document Mother Jones obtained about this.)
Hopefully, it would the the right form of religious liberty — that of worshiping and usually proselytizing, not imposing your religion on others as it did with its last nationwide fight.
Date: Oct. 29, 2008
Summary: The discussion focuses on the economic collapse and how it might lead to fewer older Mormons being able to serve missions.
Quote: “We have to pause and remember that we’re leading 13 million people worldwide,” says the late LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer, “and this pestilence is somehow touching them all so we’ve got to settle down, sober up and wise up.”
GR: Clearly, this man spoke the mind, voice and will of the Lord.
14. 2008 elections
Date: Nov. 19, 2008
Summary: David Magleby, a political scientist from Brigham Young University, walks the general authorities through an analysis of the 2008 election, with a major focus on gay-marriage initiatives.
Quote: “If this becomes a vote of the gays versus the Mormons,” Magleby warns, “we are going to lose twice.”
GR: But leadership didn’t really care since it wages the battle even after the Supreme Court June of last year ruled same-sex marriage legal nationally, as it stated that it still opposed same-sex marriage politically and then adopted a policy that forbade rites it deems as necessary for salvation to children of gays (yes, you read that right: children, and they aren’t even gay). It also declared same-sex couples as apostates, on grounds for excommunication.
Summary: Church leaders discuss changes to its history department.
Quote: “Church history is a huge universe that we can’t possibly comprehend in its totality,” says emeritus general authority Marlin K. Jensen. “And so from that great body of things we might do, we’ve got to focus in on those things that would be of most importance for us.”
GR: Apparently, that meant to Jensen to open up the purse strings on history, as the Democrat has been given credit for the church releasing 15 articles within the last two-and-a-half years that acknowledge difficult historical issues. His now-ended ministry was also marked by his saying that Millennials were “leaving the church in droves.” He was supposed to be speaking in a private setting (the author was there), but his quote was recorded and given to Reuters, leading to a 2012 story that shined light on how much the church is struggling with member retention.