Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Hanging By a Cred (As in "Credibility")

The Huffington Post featured an editorial on Tuesday about a quote Glenn Beck had made on Bill O'Reilly's show nearly two years ago. I'm not sure why it is being dug up now, but since it has been posted on Facebook by several of my friends, I thought I would throw my opinions into the mix, since I also heard about this quote during my time at BYU a decade ago.

For those who don't know, the quote is: "We are at the place where the Constitution hangs in the balance," Beck told Bill O'Reilly on November 14, 2008, just after President Obama's election. "I feel the Constitution is hanging in the balance right now, hanging by a thread unless the good Americans wake up."

The idea of the Constitution "hanging by a thread" comes from an obscure and cryptic prophecy in the Mormon church, which is: "When the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the 'Mormon' Elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it," Brigham Young wrote in 1855.

The original quote is attributed to founding prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. in the year 1840, though I have not found a source for that. Its quite possible that Brigham Young made it up and claimed that Smith was the one who first uttered it.

While I attended BYU, several professors mentioned this quote, which I dismissed at the time as hogwash. Just typical paranoid rants against President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky era. The conservative professors of BYU might have been offended (or titillated) about the American media's obsession with cigars, semen-stained GAP dresses, and "Presidential knee-pads", but Clinton's indiscreet affair with a pudgy, needy little intern hardly merited any fear of the U.S. Constitution being "hung by a thread." Unless they meant Prosecutor Ken Starr's Gestapo like investigative powers that wanted to force Monica's mother to testify against her own daughter.

I paid little attention to this Mormon "prophecy" at the time because it sounded ludicrous to me. I heard so many outrageous claims while at BYU. For example, in one class, the professor actually claimed that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln were all Mormon!!! That's right, he said it with a straight face and the good little Mormon boys and girls ate that shit up like Teabaggers at a Palin rally. What was the professor's proof that those Founding Fathers and America's greatest president were Mormon? Well, one of the Mormon prophets was approached by the ghosts of those Founders in the St. George Temple in the late 1800s and they begged him to baptize them into God's "One True Church." Because a Mormon prophet swore that this happened, and a Mormon prophet would never lie or make shit up, it is therefore TRUE! So, if you ever take a history class in Utah, you've been warned on some of the stuff they'll try to sneak past your logic sensors.

Another whopper was when I took a class on the history of Jerusalem. It was a great class, except for the annoying habit of Mormon self-importance. The professors kept interjecting Mormons into the history of Jerusalem, as though this ancient city that is holy to the three religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity was affected by an inconsequential and American religious sect known as Mormonism. If I were to ask a Jewish person what significance Mormons have played into the history of that city, I'm certain that he or she would scratch his / her head, wondering what the heck I'm talking about. To me, its just one more example of Mormonism's self-importance.

That's why this "Hanging by a thread" prophecy is so loony to me. Its the Mormon belief that our U.S. Constitution would be so thoroughly trashed that America would require a Mormon to save the country and the Constitution by rising up against the madness to play hero with his earnest, blue eyed, blond-haired aryan awesomeness! The stereotypical Mormon is earnest and All-American looking, wearing the corporate white shirt with military hair cuts and good habits.

After leaving BYU, I tried to forget most of the dogma I learned during my time there but the Bush Administration's constant violation of the U.S. Constitution really had me worried. It is ironic that Bush probably won more than 85% of the Mormon vote (if not 90%), yet his administration violated the law and the U.S. Constitution more than Nixon dreamed possible. After eight years of Constitution shredding, who decided to throw his hat into the presidential ring? Why, none other than the Mormon Mitt Romney! This is when that prophecy began to alarm me. Bush shreds the Constitution down to mere threads, and along comes an earnest Mormon by way of Mitt Romney to make things right in our country! Okay, so he did not win in 2008, but he's expected to run in 2012. He's considered to be a close personal friend of the Bush family. Karl Rove loves him. The Wall Street corporate tycoons would love to see him as president. The only saving grace are the evangelical Christians within the Republican party who view the Mormon church as a cult. They are likely to put a huge hurdle in the way of his presidential ambitions.

While there is much that I admire about Mormons and the LDS Church, there are also things that disturb me. The church is too authoritarian for my liking. BYU was like living in a police state. There was an honour code that all students agree to abide by. Students could rat each other out for violations of the honour code at the special office devoted to investigating such violations. One fanatical roommate of mine threatened to turn me into the honour code office for not converting to the LDS church. That would not have gotten me thrown out of the university, which he knew, thus why he threatened to make up a story just to get me evicted, claiming that the honour code office would never believe a non-member over a church member who holds the priesthood and a Temple recommend card.

Also at BYU was a filtered Internet, where access to some sites could get students in trouble and requests to visit the honour code office. The obsession with morality also bothered me. I've always been the kind who just lived my personal value system (which is kind of conservative, for the most part) without worrying too much about what other people do or not do. I bonded with people who shared my sense of values but I didn't preach to others who didn't share my values that they were immoral.

If the Constitution ever got to the point where it was "hanging by a thread", the Mormon church is the last place Americans should look to restore it. They want a theocracy, where secrecy, conformity to conservative values, and unquestioning obedience to the wise, elderly "General Authorities" is the norm. This flies in direct violation of what our Founding Fathers were about. Despite the mythological whitewashing of history, our Founding Fathers were DEISTS, not evangelical. They spoke of Divine Providence to usurp the power of the King, who claimed Divine favour for his reign. When Jefferson wrote that "we are endowed by our Creator certain inalienable rights," this line was considered treasonous at the time because the King was believed to have been given power by God to do as he saw fit. Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers weren't trying to start a theocracy, just saying that the Divine Creator gave all humans rights that no king can take away. That's why the Wall of Separation between Church and State was part of the Bill of Rights. There is not a single reference to Jesus or the Bible in the U.S. Constitution.

Knowing what I know about the Mormon church, all I can say is that if there is ever such an attempt to do away with our secular form of government to install an autocratic theocracy that takes orders from the LDS prophet, I will be on the frontlines to fight them till my dying day. I like the Mormons best when they don't have power over people, particularly those who haven't joined their church. I like our country the way it is: religion is allowed to flourish or perish without promotion by the secular federal government. After seeing how much power the Mormon Church has over the organization I worked for nearly a decade at, I say "No thanks." Stay in the theocracy of Utah and leave the rest of America alone. We'll manage the Constitution just fine without your meddling or ulterior motives.

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