The LDS Church has announced that children of gay couples cannot be Mormons in any fashion until they are adults and renounce the lifestyle of their parents at a legal age. Sensible people see that this hurts all Mormons, not just gay couples and their children.
In The Book of Mormon, an atheist named Korihor is said to come among the people, preaching that God did not exist and that there would be no Christ and that people were accountable only to themselves.
It is interesting that the “Mormon” prophet in these scriptures, “Alma” makes no effort to correct Korihor when Korihor accuses him of teaching “original sin”, which The Book of Mormon’s “translator”, Joseph Smith, said that Mormons do not believe in with his second Article of Faith:
“We believe that all men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.”
(Articles of Faith 2)
But it is the character Korihor who makes this argument in The Book of Mormon:
“Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.”
This brings up a whole lot of baggage in a Church that opposed the Equal Right Amendment in the sixties and seventies because its leaders thought that Black babies were born marked with the “Mark of Cain” or “Curse of Ham”, the son of Noah who tradition holds preserved the descendants of Cain through the flood by marrying a Black woman named “Egyptus”. (In that story, Ham was punished for “knowing his father’s nakedness” and “laughing” while Noah was passed out drunk. There is some debate on what this passage means.)
Now there is a “Mark of Elton John” being cast on children of Gay couples and I had to share why this really effects everyone.
The Following is an excerpt from Chapter Ten: “A child is not guilty” of my book The Korihor Argument: A Missionary’s Journey Out of Mormonism.
I have often asked myself how siblings born of the same environment and to the same parents find themselves in such opposite fates
While I was on my mission, my brother was ensnared in the awful trap of drug addiction. Brought up in the same home and by the same parents and with the same values taught to us, I became a missionary and he became an addict. Today, my brother is clean and has found God in the teachings of Joel O’steen, much to my parents’ delight. I finished my mission “with honor” and am now an Ex-Mormon and an Atheist. These are the small ironies of life inside the Matrix.
I have often asked myself how siblings born of the same environment and to the same parents find themselves in such opposite fates.
“Ye say,” says Korihor, “that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.”
The idea that children are born innocent is a recent one in Western culture. In the Old Testament, we read Moses’ explanation of original sin when he offers an intercessory prayer for the children of Israel:
“But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:17-18, emphasis added.)
But the Bible is divided on this issue. Jesus taught that his followers ought to become like little children.
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16, emphasis added.)
So, if the Bible is to be taken as one cohesive document, written by servants of the same God and to the same ends, then on one hand it condemns children to suffer for the iniquities of their parents while being, themselves, innocent of any crime.
The Book of Mormon is much more divided on the issue. On one hand, it is the antichrist Korihor who advocates for the innocence of children and on the other, it is King Benjamin, the wise prophet-king, who decries the natural man while extolling the innocence of children:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child…none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.” (The Book of Mormon. Mosiah 3:19)
if a child is innocent, then he must have nothing to repent of as an adult except for what he has done as an adult.
The Book of Mormon’s first Patriarch, Lehi, taught his sons that this was according to a grand design that involved generations of obedience in the human family.
“And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.” (The Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 2:21)
So we are made to understand that Moses was right and God does visit the transgressions of parents onto their children and furthermore, he does so because it is the plan that they become adults so that they may repent.
Lehi explains that the children’s time on earth was lengthened (beyond innocence or childhood) so that they could repent while they are in the physical body. God therefore exempts children who die while they are young from the burden of sinning and repenting that is required of the rest of us, which is an especially reassuring thought to parents of children who die young or miscarry or are stillborn.
Of course, if a child is innocent, then he must have nothing to repent of as an adult except for what he has done as an adult. In many Protestant churches, this “age of accountability” is seven or eight years of age, including Mormonism. The age of accountability must be the age at which a child is baptized in all of these traditions. But if the child has had no sins theretofore and baptism is for the remission of sins, then the eight-year-old has no sin to remit. Notably, this is in sharp contrast with Catholicism, which teaches that men inherit Adam’s original sin and must be baptized from birth, dogma that is just as silly and with the same logic: that innocents should have their sins expunged before they have a chance to commit any.
having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
Again, as soon as Joseph Smith had “translated” this verse, we find that he “translates” another that miraculously clarifies what Lehi means to say:
“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden…And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin…
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (The Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 2:22-25, emphasis added.)
When I was fourteen-years-old, I witnessed one of my favorite icons speak, in the flesh: W. Cleon Skousen. Skousen was a retired FBI Agent and former Salt Lake City Police Chief who had turned into a controversial Mormon scriptorian and American Conservative firebrand. Author of books like Isaiah Speaks to Modern Times, The Naked Communist, The First Thousand Years (and three sequels documenting a Mormon-specific Old Testament Chronology) and his Libertarian diatribe The Five Thousand Year Leap are all common reading among hard-core American Mormons, including devout Skousenite Glenn Beck. These works are controversial given that they retain a lot of traditional Pioneer-era dogma that many Mormons consider apocryphal…
Dr. Skousen showed us a video of the interview that evangelist James C. Dobson conducted with serial rapist and murderer Ted Bundy, who was executed the morning following the interview. This interview had a special connection to Dr. Skousen, who was Police Chief in Salt Lake when Bundy swept through Utah, bringing his notorious killing spree through the valley. In the course of the interview, Bundy explained that he had been a normal Christian boy brought up in a normal, Christian home but that his young mind was impacted deeply by exposure to so-called “soft-core pornography” which is to say: grocery store checkout lane covers with pretty celebrities in skimpy clothing. Bundy describes a winding path that took him from casual observing of these checkout-lane dens of carnal iniquity into pornographic literature, magazines and films that played out in his young mind scenarios of violent sex acts.
DOBSON: How long did you stay at that point before you actually assaulted someone?
BUNDY: …A couple of years. I was dealing with very strong inhibitions against criminal and violent behavior. That had been conditioned into me – bred into me in my neighborhood, environment, church, in my school.
I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint – thew barriers of actually doing something – were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fueled, largely, by pornography.
DOBSON: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember the decision to “go for it”? Do you remember where you decided to throw caution to the wind?
BUNDY: …It’s a very difficult thing to describe – the sensation of reaching that point where I knew… that I couldn’t control it anymore. That these barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back from seeking out and harming somebody.
DOBSON: Would it be accurate to call that a frenzy? A sexual frenzy?
BUNDY: That’s one way to describe it – a compulsion, a building up of this destructive energy. Another fact I haven’t mentioned is the use of alcohol. What i think that alcohol did – in conjunction with my exposure to pornography, alcohol reduced my inhibitions and pornography eroded them further.
And so we begin to see the appeal of this interview to be used with this particular audience. Bundy was extolling the virtues of religious conservative Americans – and Mormons in particular – as being the only way to protect children from the corrupting influences of porn and booze. That the wide gate to the slippery slope to hell gaped open in Cable TV or a neighbor’s trash can or an otherwise-benign convenience store or bookstore. America’s children were Ted Bundy’s in the making and it was the ambition of the world that we all rape, kill and plunder to fat the pockets of sinister agents of the Devil.
BUNDY: Basically, I was a normal person. I wasn’t some guy hanging out in bars, or a bum. I wasn’t a pervert in the sense that people look at somebody and say, “I know there’s something wrong with him.” I was essentially a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life, except for this one small but very potent and destructive segment that I kept very secret and close to myself…Those of us who have been so influenced by violence in the media, particularly pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families. Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago. As diligent as my parents were, and they were diligent in protecting their children, and as good a Christian home as we had, there is no protection against the kinds of influences that are loose [in society].
I was essentially a normal person.
This is a brief summation of Bundy’s “normal” and “Christian” upbringing: He was born Theodore Cowell in a home for unwed mothers in Vermont to a 22-year-old mother whose Christian parents took him in and raised him as their own son and made him believe that his mother was his sister.
His grandfather/father was brutish in his exercise of discipline of both Ted and his mother/sister, Louise and her sister Julia. When Ted was relatively young, Louise took him out of the Cowell home in Philadelphia and fled to Tacoma, Washington where she married a cook in the military by the name of Johnny Culpepper Bundy, all while Ted still believed that she was merely his sister. Even though Ted was adopted as Bundy’s son, he disliked the man and disobeyed him. As a teen, he did dig up dirty pictures from neighbors’ trash cans but he also was a Peeping Tom, wandering the neighborhood and looking through the windows of unsuspecting neighbors to catch a glimpse of women and girls undressing. He developed an appetite for kleptomania, fueling an intense desire to thwart authority and feel as if he lived above the law. It wasn’t long after Bundy, a shy and reserved teenager, was crushed by the blow of being dumped by his first girlfriend that he pursued the truth about his relationship to Louise Bundy and discovered in public records that she was his mother.
Bundy went to Law School but never finished. He was very eloquent, well-spoken and handsome and these attributes served him well in getting young women and girls to go along with his games. Somewhere between 30 and 36 women are believed to be identified as Bundy’s victims, but the true number he took to his grave. Often, he would craft ploys and disguises like wearing an arm cast and he would use these to take advantage of the Christian charity of his marks to lure them into his vehicle, kidnap them, rape them and kill them. A very cunning character, sometimes he identified himself as a police officer or a member of the fire department, even if he wasn’t wearing a uniform or carrying forged credentials. Afterwards, he would stash the bodies in the woods or mountains nearby. In between attacks, he would satiate his perverse bloodlust by returning to where the corpses were stashed and commit necrophilia with them. Sometimes, he would sever the head of the corpse to take home and play with.
He was caught three times and escaped twice, including once by lulling a Judge into allowing him to study at the library in preparation to defend himself at trial, wherein he opened a window while his guard wasn’t looking and jumped to the ground, two stories below. He preferred to represent himself in his trials, where he was consistently convicted after the jury saw the way that he interrogated the prosecution’s witnesses, harvesting and relishing in the details that he would draw out of their testimony of the discovery of the remains of his victims.
The public outcry for justice on Bundy had reached fever-pitch by the time he was operating in full-swing in conservative Florida. Flaunting the law while on the lam, Bundy’s crimes culminated in the youngest and last victim on record, twelve-year-old Diane Leach. Witnesses came forward later to describe seeing Bundy walk onto the campus of the Junior High School and drag the girl, crying, to a van. He was repeatedly yelling at her to shut up and pushing her to the van that was his getaway vehicle and the last place where Diane Leach was seen alive. Witnesses said that they had presumed that Bundy was the girl’s father. Dobson asked about that crime.
BUNDY: I can’t really talk about that right now.
DOBSON: It’s too painful.
BUNDY: I can’t begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children and young women that I have harmed feel. And I can’t restore much to them, if anything. I won’t pretend to, and I don’t even expect them to forgive me. I’m not asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God; if they have it, they have it, and if they don’t, maybe they’ll find it someday.
This is where the motive of Bundy in giving Dobson this interview becomes obvious, if one is aware of the circumstances. Bundy’s sociopathic profile doesn’t fit the behavior of a sinner who comes to Jesus because he is contrite in spirit. But it does fit the description of a charismatic con-man who talked his way in and out of things…
DOBSON: Do you deserve the punishment the state has inflicted upon you?
BUNDY: That’s a very good question and I’ll answer very honestly: I don’t want to die; I’m not gonna kid you. I deserve, certainly, the most extreme punishment society has. And I think that society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That’s for sure. What I hope will come of our discussion is that I think society deserves to be protected from itself. As we have been talking, there are forces at loose in this country, especially this kind of violent pornography, where on the one hand, well-meaning people will condemn the behavior of a Ted Bundy while they’re walking past a magazine rack full of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road to be Ted Bundy’s. That’s the irony.
The minutes following the sobering interview, there was an electricity that hung in the air. Something about the familiarity of Bundy’s warning haunted me. It made me feel guilty that magazines objectifying women even existed, as if that were somehow my fault. The accusation lingered in the air over our heads, “are we really all Ted Bundy’s in the making? Am I a Ted Bundy in the making? A serial murderer and rapist born with a ‘natural man’ that wants nothing but the destruction of innocence and desecration of life?”
I don’t think that Skousen or Kimber meant for this train of thought to stick with me as long as it did. They certainly gave no thought to that the question that follows is one of the greatest questions to plague criminologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, policymakers and preachers of every stripe: “Did Bundy kill and desecrate these women because he chose to or because he is the product of his environment?”
While it is tempting to say that he chose to do it (because that isolates responsibility to just him and no one else), we must consider that Bundy was not only exposed to pornography and gory detective novels, but also lied about his “normal Christian upbringing” when he knew perfectly well that it was anything but. His motive could not be to expose some psychological flaw within himself for purely altruistic motives (desiring only the benefit of others) because then he should have told the truth about his complicated relationship with Louise, his grandfather’s abusive standard of discipline or his distrust of Johnny Bundy. It warranted mentioning that young Ted Cowell endured the identity crisis of growing up without knowing for certain who his father was, his early experiments in shoplifting and even early sociopathy signs like how he placed his grandmother/mother’s knives around his sister/aunt Julia while she was sleeping so that she woke to find him grinning over her with the knives arrayed menacingly around her body.
The paradox of Buridan’s Ass postulates that a hungry ass walks into a field where there are two exactly identical hay-stacks equally available to him. It is important to understand that this parable is not an exercise in thinking outside the box and so all variations of suggestions like wind-direction and velocity, distance to one hay-stack over another, size of the hay-stack, etc. are all dismissed with the same answer: “the haystacks are exactly the same with no distinguishing reason to prefer one over the other. He must choose arbitrarily.” But is there anything – or anyone – that does choose arbitrarily? If there is, no substantiating data has been found, as yet, to determine what that something is.
Lehi actually weighs in on this to his sons with an interesting doctrine:
“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things…both things to act and things to be acted upon.”
“…And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law.” (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:14, 26)
Immediately following the meeting, I returned to my Aunt’s house, where my Mom and I were staying while attending the Conference. My Aunt Abby was the Executive Director of the Rape Recovery Center of Utah and I have a profound respect for her – she had been placed in serious danger for speaking out on behalf of rape victims on Utah’s radio waves and in the media.
I told her about the Bundy interview. Both she and my mother instantly engaged, both of them having been young women in Utah who had been familiar with victims of Bundy’s. My aunt asked me what the conclusion was. I told her about the soft-core pornography and effect of alcohol on the minds of men and the rhetoric that Skousen and Kimber had put into our minds that “men are aroused by vision and fantasy and women are aroused by touch and relationships”.
She was unimpressed with this analysis. We had a thoughtful conversation and she shared with me stories of her own experiences and those of the women who came through her center. It was there that it was first explained to me in impressive detail that rape is not about sex, it is about power and control that can be had by robbing someone of their sense of safety and ownership of their body and identity. Little did I know at the time that this distinction would serve me better in life and would ultimately bring me into a head-to-head conflict with the teachings of a prophet of God.
Bundy’s warning was not abated in me. Not long after I returned from Utah, I made my first-ever formal request to meet with my Bishop when I brought my tithing envelope to him at the close of Sacrament Meeting. He agreed to meet with me right away and we went to his office.
Inside, after mustering up the courage, I confessed that I had an occasional habit of masturbating.
He was very disturbed by this news. I had hoped for some reassurance that this was a phase that is expected and that I could grow to learn to manage my feelings in time. No such luck.
“Can you describe to me what you do when this happens?” he asked.
I was baffled. That definitely was not a question that I expected.
“Do you touch yourself?” he probed further.
“Yes,” I admitted, uncertain of how unfamiliar a grown man could be with the activity we were discussing.
“And you – fondle yourself, I’m guessing? Stroke yourself until you reach climax and ejaculation?”
I broke down and cried. For a man who seemed so unfamiliar with the mechanics of this sin, he sure seemed to figure mine out in a hurry. And to hear him describe it in the language that he used made me feel all the worse – like I was the biggest pervert that he had ever encountered.
“Is there pornography involved when this happens?” He asked.
If my Dad ever looked at porn, he had a great hiding space for it because my brother and I never found any. In 1994, if there was any such thing as internet pornography, I certainly didn’t know how to find it. But, repressed as I was, there was material that I found immediately arousing: anatomical drawings in the encyclopedia, Greco-Roman paintings and sculptures in History books, and my personal favorite vice: the bra and panties ads in the Sunday Mervyn’s catalog.
In fact, as I grew older, I would later tell this story, half-joking that I had always thought that most of what made a woman sexy was standing in a white bra and sheer robe, gazing confidently through her bedroom window, comfortably bathed in warm Sunlight.
“This is very serious,” he remanded me. “The world will tell you that this is a common thing that everyone does. They don’t. I’m worried that a young man as strong in the faith as you are can be burdened with a vice like this.”
I nodded. I certainly felt ashamed to be talking about this with anyone and would have rather been anywhere else and been anyone else than myself in this terrifying circumstance.
“Well, Brother, it seems to me that you are very sorry about this. Are you familiar with the five steps of repentance?”
I nodded. Recognition of the sin, feel “godly sorrow” for the sin, asking God for forgiveness, seeking to make restitution, and never returning to the sin, again.
“I think that we ought to involve your parents in this discussion,” he interjected, soberly.
My eyes shot up, “No way!”
He seemed surprised by this answer. But this was not how I was told that the confession process went. I understood that things said in the Bishop’s meetings were confidential and that I could rely on that.
“Alright,” he conceded immediately. But the fact that he would think that any such thing was an option seemed horrifying to me. I had come to confess before the eyes of the Church because I understood that it was necessary in order to make my life right with God. As far as I was concerned, this matter had been between me and God and now the Church was being involved as a formality. I certainly saw no productive role that my poor mother could play in the scenario, too!
The Bishop reached into his desk and produced a pamphlet with a funny 70’s-era colored-pencil sketch of three stereotypical white Mormon teenage boys on the front. The title of the pamphlet was “To Young Men Only”.
“I want you to prayerfully study this,” he said. “We’ll meet again next week and talk about how it went.”
I took the pamphlet and then he invited me to offer a prayer…
Part of the pamphlet I was already familiar with, it was from a talk delivered by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1976. In it, he spoke directly to young men of the Church or “the Aaronic Priesthood”. He explained to young men that their bodies are like factories that have been blessed with the ability to manufacture the life-giving ingredients for the tabernacles of flesh and bone that God’s children would inhabit as babies. He further explains that long before a young man is in the position to provide for a family, this biological factory begins to practice running these processes and storing the residual product. A “reservoir” collects the material from your factory’s dry-runs (forgive the pun) until it is too full. When this happens, Elder Packer said, a miraculous relief valve has been built into the “little factory”.
“The Lord has provided a way for that to be released. It will happen without any help or without any resistance from you. Perhaps, one night you will have a dream. In the course of it the release valve that controls the factory will open and release all that is excess…
“There is, however, something you should not do. Sometimes a young man does not understand…He might fondle himself and open that release valve. This you should not do, for if you do that, the little factory will speed up. You will then be tempted again and again to release it. You can quickly be subjected to a habit, one that is not worthy, one that will leave you feeling depressed and feeling guilty. Resist that temptation. Do not be guilty of tampering or playing with this sacred power of creation.” (Packer, Boyd K. For Young Men Only. 1976. Intellectual Reserve, Inc.)
Following this story, Elder Packer gives some advice for controlling the “stage” of one’s mind by humming and singing church hymns that dispel the demons that tempt a young man to lose control of himself. He continues with a somber warning related to this habit.
“It was intended that we use this power only with our partner in marriage. I repeat, very plainly, physical mischief with another man is forbidden. It is forbidden by the Lord.
There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.” (Ibid.)
Elder Packer relates a story about visiting a mission where a missionary confessed to hitting his companion. After Packer learns that the confrontation was because the companion had somehow solicited a sex act, he verified to the missionary that he was justified in deeming the circumstance worthy of being resolved with violence.
Already, this pamphlet has turned to a subject that made me extremely uncomfortable at fourteen.
“There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just ‘that way’ and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mis matching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men – masculine, manly men – ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is pre destined to a perverted use of these powers.” (Ibid.)
It had never occurred to me that a sin that I had committed alone in my bedroom in a moment of loneliness and carnal desire for the love of a woman could be the same plight as that of someone who struggled against feelings of homosexuality. Could it be that my difficulty in resisting this urge was what it was like for men who desired to be with other men? I was mortified at the very thought.
The next thought was a necessary natural consequence: Could it be that I was actually gay? Could I be marching down the road to a lifestyle of such reckless and wanton sexual behavior that I could be talked into doing anything and with anyone? My mind raced with Ted Bundy’s ominous warning on the eve of his execution. The idea haunted my every thought that I could lose control of my mind to the carnal lusts of the flesh and my life ruined by the natural man within me that desired nothing less than the overthrow of my Heavenly Father’s sacred and eternal plan. Once the Devil had your mind in his power, what was to stop him from turning you gay or incestuous or to turn you to rape, murder and necrophilia like Bundy?
I marveled that what had been an embarrassing and innocent experiment could lead to such disastrous consequences…
But he is a General Authority – an apostle, even – and must know these things better than I did.
what was to stop him from turning you gay or incestuous or to turn you to rape, murder and necrophilia like Bundy?