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Richard Packham's media questions for Mitt Romney

A FairMormon Analysis of: Questions For Mitt Romney (Complied by Richard Packham), a work by author: Richard Packham
High Level Summary
Title Questions For Mitt Romney
Type E-mail and web posting (The item is labeled: "COPYRIGHT: This material is not copyrighted in the hope that it will receive wide distribution in any form")
Author(s) Richard Packham
Affiliation Atheist former member of the Church; Founder of Exmormon Foundation.
Accuracy Virtually every item either subtly or overtly distorts LDS belief and teachings
Temple content Edited for appropriateness. Packham is known for discussing temple matters in great detail.

Summary

NOTE: Although this article deals with a politically related issue, FairMormon does not take a position on political parties or candidates.

Faith and politics, when you mix them together, it becomes kind of a tinderbox and it can explode in your face.
—Democratic strategist Ryan Clayton, quoted by Shannon Bream, "Does Mitt's Mormonism matter? Recent comments raise questions over what role faith will play in 2012", FoxNews.com, April 23, 2012
It is not going to happen. The Obama campaign gurus are wise enough to know there is nothing to gain by opening up the can of very fat worms that is religion....Those on the left are already in President Obama’s camp, so there would be no advantage in placating them with attacks on Romney’s faith. Those on the right? Well, they will hold their nose and vote for the Republican candidate...
"Attacking Mitt Romney's Mormonism would be political idiocy," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2012
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In 2008, during Mitt Romney's run for the presidential nomination, Richard Packham, an ex-Mormon and atheist, compiled a list of questions for the media that were designed to turn evangelical Christians against a Mormon political candidate. In 2012, this list was resurrected in an attempt to gain media interest. The following was posted by Richard Packham on an ex-Mormon message board on April 12, 2012.

Journalistic scrutiny of TSCC [The So-Called Church] intensifies

...In a way it is very frustrating, because few of these non-Mormon journalists know enough to ask the right questions (even the one from Utah!), and - as we saw in the BBC and Al-Jazeera shows - to know when they are being lied to or deceived. On the other hand, it is gratifying to be able to open the eyes of these journalists to everything the church wants to keep hidden.

And I am hoping that as November approaches the whole world will know all they need to know about Mormonism.

It is a time when we all can make a difference: the Mormons are mobilizing their troops to flood news stories with favorable comments, trying to rebut anything negative in the reports. We need to make sure OUR voices are heard there, too.

Please do what you can!
Message posted by Richard Packham on the Recovery from Mormonism message board, April 12, 2012 07:05PM

Sources used

  • None included. The argument is by assertion only.

Answer


The list of questions is predominantly oriented toward biasing evangelical Christians against a Mormon candidate. Coming from an atheist, this is particularly ironic and indicates that the purpose is simply to harm the Church in the public eye. It is highly unlikely that such religious-based questions will gain much traction from the mainstream media. One commenter notes,

University of Utah political-science professor Matthew Burbank also doubts anti-Mormon lines of enquiry will tangle up the GOP candidate. Burbank likens church critics assailing Romney to the “birther” movement that tried to discredit Obama’s candidacy in the 2008 election by suggesting he was born in Africa instead of the United States. Burbank doesn’t see the religious-obedience question resonating with the general public the way financial or sex scandals do. “It’s unlikely at the campaign level that that’s going to be a big issue,” Burbank says.
Eric S. Peterson, The Anti-Mormon Moment LDS Critics Capitalize On Romney's GOP Nom, City Weekly, April 18, 2012.

FAIR's evaluation of the "Questions For Mitt Romney"

Quotations from Packham's list are in the blue boxes below. (All language is as in the original, except where LDS temple language has been removed. FAIR will not discuss temple specifics in a public forum.) FAIR's commentary and links for further reading are included below each section.

FAIR does not, of course, speak for Governor Romney. FAIR does not endorse or oppose any political candidate for any office. Our concern here is only with correcting misapprehensions or distortions about LDS belief and practice.

News reports say that Governor Romney, looking ahead to the possibility of presenting himself as a candidate for the U.S. presidency in 2008, is meeting privately with Christian leaders to allay their concerns about the fact that he is a Mormon. (See Boston Globe, Nov 2, 2006 at http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/11/02/romney_consults_evangelical_leaders) These leaders apparently are concentrating on areas such as Romney's view of gay marriage, abortion, and whether Romney is really a Christian. Undoubtedly Romney's answers in those areas will satisfy most of these Christian leaders.

However, not knowing much about Mormon doctrine and practices, most Christians are unaware of some of the areas in which the idea of a Mormon as president would raise serious doubts in their minds. They simply don't know what to ask the governor.

Below are some suggested questions which should be asked of Governor Romney, both by Christian leaders and by journalists.

It is ironic that Packham, an atheist, is instructing Christians about what should concern them. The list is a clear effort to alienate Christian voters from a Mormon candidate by distorting LDS theology.

Readers should remember that Packham does not share Christians' concerns, beliefs, or theology—he just wants to use them to potentially embarrass Romney and his faith.

According to Mormon scripture, the founder of your church (Joseph Smith) was told by God in 1820 that all the churches of the day were "an abomination." Do you agree with God's view of other churches, as quoted by Joseph Smith? (Pearl of Great Price, JS-H 1:18-19)

This is a standard anti-Mormon claim, and it is false. Joseph Smith did not say that "all the churches of the day" were "an abomination."

Instead, Joseph reported that God said that the false creeds taught were an abomination. False beliefs keep people from approaching God more fully. Joseph Smith praised the true beliefs of other Christian groups: "Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true 'Mormons'." [1]

This attitude probably matches those of most Christian denominations: each tradition believes that it is the 'best' approach to Christian truth, but does not deny that other branches of Christianity contain truths and things of value. (Almost all Christians, for example, share the LDS belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the divine son of God born in the flesh.)

Church leaders have also taught that members of other faiths are also instruments for the accomplishment of God's purposes.

Was Joseph Smith told that "all the churches of the day were an abomination?"

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith stated that during the First Vision that he was told that "all the churches of the day were an abomination."

According to your church's Articles of Faith, number eight, the Book of Mormon is the "word of God." Do you believe that?

Yes.

The Eighth Article of Faith:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

The Bible as part of Latter-day Saint canon

Summary: Latter-day Saints consider the Bible to be holy scripture.

Book of Mormon basics

Summary: What is the Book of Mormon? This article orients new readers to the nature and content of this volume of scripture.

According to the Book of Mormon there are only two churches: the "church of the Lamb of God [presumably the Mormon church]" and the "church of the devil," "the whore of all the earth." Do you agree with that Mormon scripture? (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10)

Packham's "presumption" is false. There are members of "the church of the Lamb of God" outside the Church, and there are members of the "church of the devil" within the Church. He is here displaying either his ignorance of LDS teaching, or his willingness to mislead his readers.

Great and abominable church

Summary: What is the "great and abominable church" referred to in the Book of Mormon? It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe that the scriptural terms "church of the devil," the "great and abominable church," and the "whore of all the earth" refer to a specific denomination. It is claimed that the Book of Mormon teaches that "all mainstream Christians fall into the world system know as the devil's church (or Satan's kingdom)."

According to the Book of Mormon a dark skin is a curse imposed by God on the unrighteous and their descendants as a punishment for sin. Do you agree with that doctrine? (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 12:22-23, Alma 3:6, 2 Nephi 5:21-22, Jacob 3:8, 3 Nephi 2:15-16, Mormon 5:15; references to the "Lamanites" are taken to be referring to Native American "Indians".)

Packham is simply wrong: The Book of Mormon does not say "a dark skin is a curse imposed by God on the unrighteous." Rather, the Lamanite curse was a specific curse against a specific people at a specific time, and nowhere indicates that it is a general curse applied across other times and peoples.

A close reading of the Book of Mormon shows that the Lamanite curse was one of separation from the blessings of God, and the mark itself was not the curse.

Lamanite curse

Summary: It is claimed that the Church believed that Lamanites who accepted the Gospel would become light-skinned. "Mormon folklore" claims that Native Americans and Polynesians carry a curse based upon "misdeeds on the part of their ancestors."

According to Mormon doctrine, the president of the Mormon church is a prophet of God, receiving revelations and commandments (God's laws) directly from God. Do you believe that? (Doctrine and Covenants , 21:5, 43:3, 58:18)

Sure, although we're at a loss to understand what relevance this religious question has to politics. Perhaps this is an attempt to imply that Mormon politicians are not going to take direction from their constituents? There are plenty of Mormon politicians in both of the major political parties—enough to easily disprove this assertion.

Here is the text of the scriptures quoted.

D&C 21:5

For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

D&C 43:3

And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.

D&C 58:18

And to judge his people by the testimony of the just, and by the assistance of his counselors, according to the laws of the kingdom which are given by the prophets of God.

Church involvement

Summary: Why does the Church speak out on political matters? Church leaders encourage members to be active in politics and to exercise their right to vote. The Church does not, however, specify how members should vote or which political party they ought to belong to. Occasionally, however, the First Presidency issues a letter which is read over the pulpit urging members to act upon some political matter.

One of the most sacred rituals for adult Mormons, performed only in a Mormon temple, is a ceremony called "the endowment." Have you undergone this ritual? If so, in what year?

This question is not controversial in and of itself; it's merely a setup for a later question on aspects of the temple endowment that changed after Romney received his own endowment.

Romney left to serve an LDS mission in France in July 1966. It has long been the practice to endow missionaries shortly before they leave for service, so it's likely that Romney received his temple endowment within a few weeks or months prior to this date.

Endowment

Summary: A number of criticisms are related to the Latter-day Saint Endowment ceremony. Latter-day Saints consider the ceremony to be sacred in nature. Note that as members of FAIR, we are fully committed to keeping our temple covenants, and we will not discuss certain details related to the ceremony. There are, however, criticisms that we can respond to. This set of articles addresses criticisms related to the Endowment.

To be admitted to the temple for the endowment ceremony a Mormon must be "in good standing" in the church and undergo a personal interview with church leaders, who examine the member as to whether the member obeys church commandments, supports church leaders, pays full ten percent tithe, wears the prescribed Mormon underwear, abstains from coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco and extramarital sex, and other matters. If the member answers correctly, a pass to the temples (called a "temple recommend") is issued, good for two years. Do you have such a temple recommend now, indicating that you are in good standing in your church?

It is unclear as to why Packham believes the media would want to know of a Mormon politician's temple worthiness or consider it relevant to his or her campaign.

In the secret Mormon temple ceremony Mormons take an oath of obedience to "the law of the Lord." Did you take that oath?

Mormons do commit to obey God's law, similar to promises made by many observant non-Mormon Christians and Jews. Again, this question seems to imply that a Mormon politician may ignore his or her constituents in favor of Church leadership. Given the number of Mormon politicians that have held or currently hold an elected office, this assertion ought to be dismissed out of hand by any fair-minded observer of US politics.

LDS scripture specifically states that those who obey the law of God do not need to disobey the law of the land:

D&C 58:21-22

21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet

Before 1990, the endowment ceremony required members to take an oath of secrecy not to reveal anything that happened in the temple under penalty of death. Did you take that oath?

This is a gross exaggeration. In the temple endowment, Latter-day Saints promise to not reveal a few, very specific aspects of the ceremony, not "anything that happened." The Church has published numerous explanations of the temple ceremony; open houses at newly-built temples take non-members through tours of the temple and explain what goes on in each room; and any endowed Latter-day Saint is free to discuss the endowment in general terms, as long as it is done with respect and reverence.

Readers should remember that Packham himself made these same promises, and now breaks them. (According to information on his website, Packham was endowed in 1952, while Romney was still a young child.)

Prior to April 1990, the temple endowment included "penalties," which were symbolic of the endowed person's personal commitment to not discuss these few aspects of the ceremony. They were not meant to be taken literally, and there is no credible evidence that any Latter-day Saint has ever been put to death for revealing or breaking his temple covenants.

The penalties symbolically expressed what one was willing to do rather than break covenants and promises to God. In a similar way, a man might say, "I would rather die than cheat on my wife." This does not mean that his wife has license to kill him if he cheats on her.

Main article: Endowment penalties

In the temple ceremony Mormons also take a secret oath to [dedicate everything you have to God] Did you take that oath? Would you consider the office of the presidency of the U.S. to be a "blessing" with which the Lord had blessed you?

Consecration of time and talents to the Church

Summary: It is claimed that covenants that they make to consecrate all they they have to the Church implies that those who have been elected to political office must be subservient to the dictates of Church leaders rather than their constituents.
  • Note the use of the phrase "secret oath." One might reasonably wonder why Packham would use the adjective "secret" in this instance since, by his bringing up the oath, it seems like a modifier without meaning. (If Packham and others know about the oath, how secret is it, really?)

Mormons teach that by obedience to all the commandments of Mormonism, a Mormon may attain the highest degree of heaven and ultimately become a god, creating and ruling over his own universe. Do you believe that? Is this your ultimate personal goal?

Gods of their own planets?

Summary: It is claimed that Mormons believe that they can push themselves higher in a type of 'celestial pecking order.' This is often expressed by the claim that Latter-day Saint men wish to become "gods of their own planets." One critic even extends this to our "own universe."

Although your church presently condemns the practice of polygamy, the scripture commanding it is still in the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132. Many early Mormons were polygamous and married ("sealed") to numerous wives "for eternity." Do you believe then that there will be polygamous families in Mormon heaven?

Yes, but not exclusively and not compulsorily. Remember that many early Mormons were also non-polygamous. We believe that there will be families after this life, provided those families are sealed together as a unit during this life, and provided that those families were faithful and true to the promises they made with God.

  • Note the pejorative use of the term "Mormon heaven." Given that Mr. Packham is an atheist, it is obvious that the use of this term is designed to appeal to evangelical Christians.

The extensive interest of Mormons in genealogical research is to enable them to perform "baptisms for the dead," thus posthumously inducting previous generations into the Mormon church. Many non-Mormons become angry when they learn that the names of their ancestors - having often been faithful members of some other religion during life - have been used in this way. often without permission of the living descendants. The posthumous baptism of many Holocaust victims caused considerable anger among Jewish groups, and your church agreed to stop the practice as to them (but admitted that it was unable to do so). Do you feel that such anger is justified? (Would you feel anger if some voodoo cult was using your deceased grandparents' names in some voodoo ritual, and then announcing to all the world that they were now voodoo worshippers?)

There are numerous problems here:

  • No one is "posthumously inducted" into the LDS Church through baptism for the dead. This rite merely makes the ordinance of baptism available to those who have died; the deceased individual still has to accept the gospel and the proxy baptism held in his or her behalf. No one is forced to accept the temple baptism in the next world. Again, either Packham knows this and is deliberately misleading his readers, or he is utterly ignorant about a basic aspect of LDS theology.
  • It is an overstatement to claim that "many" non-Mormons are angry over the LDS practice of baptism for the dead. Some prominent Jewish groups have asked the Church not to perform proxy baptisms for victims of the Nazi Holocaust; after several attempts to respect this request, in 2012 the Church put strong restrictions in place to prevent this. Other than this single example, there are no other organized groups who have asked the Church to do the same. There is no evidence that "many" people are "angry" about it. Packham is attempting to stir up anger--but is doing so by misrepresenting (through either malice or ignorance) LDS theology.
  • Is anger at LDS proxy baptisms "justified"? Only if a non-Mormon believed that LDS baptism for the dead had any effect at all (in which case, why isn't he a Mormon?). If the Mormon faith is not correct—as many including Packham believe—then LDS proxy ordinances have no effect, and anger over them is nonsensical. If a Mormon does not believe that voodoo rituals have any effect, then voodoo use of his or her ancestors' names shouldn't be of any concern.

It is well documented that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, secretly had many wives. Some of those women were at the same time married to other men, some were as young as fifteen, He claimed that he was commanded by God to enter into these marriages. Do you feel that these early marital practices of the church founder were really commanded by God? (See the book In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Mormon historian Todd Compton for detailed biographies of these wives.)

Joseph Smith and polyandry

Summary: Joseph Smith was sealed to women who were married to men who were still living. Some of these men were even active members of the Church. It is likely that this was a method of binding believers together into one great family—interestingly, there is little evidence that these relationships were consummated.

Mormons believe that when Christ returns to earth, a millennium of peace will begin under Christ's rule (Article of Faith number ten), presumably as a single theocracy. Most Mormons believe that during that time, Mormons will be Christ's appointed officers and that the law will conform to Mormon teachings. Do you believe that?

This seems to be a reference to the alleged "White Horse Prophecy." Unfortunately, the only accounts of the alleged prophecy were provided second-hand years after the Prophet's death, and cannot be corroborated with other contemporary sources. However, based upon the information that is extant, one can see that the prediction is that Latter-day Saints would support and uphold the government, not take over the government. It is absolutely clear that this is not a prophecy that is considered in any way true or binding on the membership of the Church. Those who would try to hold the Church to their interpretation of this so-called prophecy do so improperly and without any verifiable reason to do so.

The "White Horse Prophecy"

Summary: It is claimed that the "White Horse" prophecy predicts the "transformation of the U.S. government into a Mormon-ruled theocracy." It is claimed that the "White Horse" prophecy "continues to be a dominant element of the faith espoused by Joseph Smith's followers" because they believe that they will be "officers and administrators" during Christ's millennial reign.

Once more, Packham misrepresents LDS doctrine through either ignorance or design. LDS doctrine teaches that many faiths (and none) will exist during Christ's millennial reign, that no one will be compelled in their belief, and that there will be no religious persecution:

  • "In the millennium men will have the privilege of being Presbyterians, Methodists or Infidels, but they will not have the privilege of treating the name and character of Deity as they have done heretofore." - Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 12:274.
  • "In those days, the Methodists and Presbyterians, headed by their priests, will not be allowed to form into a mob to drive, kill, and rob the Latter-day Saints; neither will the Latter-day Saints be allowed to rise up and say, "We will kill you Methodists, Presbyterians, &c.," neither will any of the different sects of Christendom be allowed to persecute each other." - Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:316.
  • "Not long hence and the voice of the people shall be obeyed, and the true gospel of peace shall dominate the hearts of the mighty. It will then be impossible for war lords to have power over the life and death of millions of men as they now have, to decree the ruin of commerce, industry, and growing fields, or to cause untold mental agony and human misery like plague and pestilence to prevail over the nations....the self-constituted monarchs must give way to rulers chosen by the people, who shall be guided by the doctrines of love and peace as taught in the gospel of our Lord. There will then be instituted a new social order in which the welfare of all shall be uppermost, and all shall be permitted to live in the utmost liberty and happiness." - Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 17 no. 11 (September 1914), 1074.

According to Mormon scripture (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3) Joseph Smith did more than any other man except Jesus Christ "for the salvation of men in this world." Do you agree with that, keeping in mind the contributions of men like the Apostles, Saint Paul, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, and others?

Joseph Smith: Status in LDS belief

Summary: Do members worship Joseph Smith or treat him as more than a man? Critics charge that since Joseph claimed (or it was claimed in his behalf) the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," this arrogates to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."
  • As an atheist, it's unlikely that Packham believes that all of the above religious figures have done anything for the salvation of mankind. He is again attempting to exploit religious believers' faith for his own purposes.

Notes

  1. History of the Church, 5:517. Volume 5 link