Mormonism on Trial in the UK (plus early Weekend Poll)

By: hawkgrrrl
February 6, 2014

The court summons alleging fraud.

The church is in the international headlines once again, this time because of the much anticipated “October Surprise” promised (threatened?) by Tom Phillips, current head of MormonThink and previous Stake President, now disaffected former Mormon, who detailed his experience with the Second Anointing ordinance when he was a church leader in the UK.  While it’s 4 months late, he has grabbed headlines by suing church leader, Thomas S Monson, asserting that tithing funds were obtained from member Stephen Bloor by making misleading fraudulent claims, including:

  1. The Book of Abraham is a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith.
  2. The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by Joseph Smith is the most correct book on earth and is an ancient historical record.
  3. Native Americans are descended from an Israelite family which left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.
  4. Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon.
  5. The Illinois newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor had to be destroyed because it printed lies about Joseph Smith.
  6. There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago.
  7. All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago.

This is the best article I’ve seen on this case to date, written primarily from a US legal perspective, comparing this case to United States v. Ballard, a religious fraud case in 1944.  In that case, the fraudulent claims were upheld, but one dissenting judge, Judge Jackson, made several eloquent points about the dangers of allowing this type of case.

While it will probably get thrown out, the material questions (from a legal standpoint) that I can see are: 1) can these claims be proven or demonstrated to be the church’s consistent position, and 2) can it be proven that President Monson doesn’t believe the church’s claims?  I’d like to elaborate on each of these, but also conduct some informal polling among our readers on the same.

What Are the Church’s Claims?

The source of Tom P’s “claims”?

Each of the 7 statements (above) that are supposedly church claims all have a good deal of wiggle room. For example, the Book of Abraham is usually called an inspired translation rather than a literal translation. This is one benefit to the statements the church has been putting out on Fridays (most recently, DNA and the Book of Mormon). It clarifies that the church’s stance isn’t clear! There are conflicting statements throughout the last 150 years from various Mormon leaders on all these topics.  A comment on the above article by Greg1984 points to several of these flaws:

  1. i) The Book of Abraham is a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith.  The Church teaches that the BoA is an “inspired” translation, not a “literal” translation. 
  2. ii) The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by Joseph Smith is the most correct book on earth and is an ancient historical record.  The Church teaches the BoM was translated from ancient gold plates. There is both evidence for and against the claim it is an ancient historical record. Smith said it was “most correct” only in the context of helping someone get closer to God. 
  3. iii) Native Americans are descended from an Israelite family which left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.  The Church teaches that some, not necessarily all, Native Americans are descended of Israelites.
  4. iv) Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon.  They were killed for many reasons. One nearly indisputable reason was their testimony of the Book of Mormon. The Smiths qualify as “martyrs” under most definitions of the word.  
  5. v) The Illinois newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor had to be destroyed because it printed lies about Joseph Smith.  The Nauvoo Expositor printed truths, half-truths, and lies about Smith. The question of “had to be destroyed” is subjective. 
  6. vi) There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago.  Some Mormons believe this, some do not. The Church has no official stance.  
  7. vii) All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago.  Most Mormons believe this, some do not. The Church has no official stance.

Did Pres. Monson make these specific assertions to Stephen Bloor in some side conversation?  And if so, how could it be proven?  Was there a recorded conversation?  Or is this just a general claim taken straight out of the pages of the non-canonical Mormon Doctrine?

Are the seven points in the summons document an accurate reflection of the church's claims?

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Does Pres. Monson Disbelieve the Church’s Claims?

Going to London or not?

It doesn’t matter whether the church’s claims are true or even credible.  For fraud to occur, Pres. Monson would have to be deliberately using misinformation or misleading information to deceive others for purposes of obtaining tithing funds.  To commit fraud, he has to be a non-believer.  Proving what Pres. Monson does or doesn’t believe is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.  As Judge Jackson pointed out in the Ballard case:

In the first place, as a matter of either practice or philosophy I do not see how we can separate an issue as to what is believed from considerations as to what is believable. The most convincing proof that one believes his statements is to show that they have been true in his experience. Likewise, that one knowingly falsified is best proved by showing that what he said happened never did happen.

How can the Government prove these persons knew something to be false which it cannot prove to be false? If we try religious sincerity severed from religious verity, we isolate the dispute from the very considerations which in common experience provide its most reliable answer.

In the second place, any inquiry into intellectual honesty in religion raises profound psychological problems. William James, who wrote on these matters as a scientist, reminds us that it is not theology and ceremonies which keep religion going. Its vitality is in the religious experiences of many people.

Pres. Monson’s talks are almost exclusively about the impact of living the gospel in his life.  The seven supposed claims of Mormonism have relatively little to do with daily lived experience of the faithful or with paying tithing.  Faith often goes against proof.  Again, Judge Jackson says it well:

it is hard to say that they do not get what they pay for. Scores of sects flourish in this country by teaching what to me are queer notions. It is plain that there is wide variety in American religious taste. The Ballards are not alone in catering to it with a pretty dubious product.

The chief wrong which false prophets do to their following is not financial. The collections aggregate a tempting total, but individual payments are not ruinous. I doubt if the vigilance of the law is equal to making money stick by over-credulous people.

But the real harm is on the mental and spiritual plane. There are those who hunger and thirst after higher values which they feel wanting in their humdrum lives. They live in mental confusion or moral anarchy and seek vaguely for truth and beauty and moral support. When they are deluded and then disillusioned, cynicism and confusion follow.

The wrong of these things, as I see it, is not in the money the victims part with half so much as in the mental and spiritual poison they get. But that is precisely the thing the Constitution put beyond the reach of the prosecutor, for the price of freedom of religion or of speech or of the press is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish. [1]

Do you believe Pres. Monson believes the church's claims?

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Some have speculated that Tom Phillips (the claimant) is hunting for secret documents in the church’s archives regarding these seven claims. Given that the church was buying all sorts of documents in the 1980s (the Hoffman forgeries exploited this) and has a stake in the same, it’s possible there are (seemingly) materially damaging documents in the church’s secret archives. Doubtless the Catholic church’s secret archives could take ours in an arm wrestle [2], but it’s an interesting question, specifically about the LDS church. Even if there are damaging documents, they would have to be proven to be legitimate. The church would also have a motive to squirrel away damaging forgeries or false documents to keep them out of the public eye so that faith is not damaged.  The story of the lost 116 pages is a cautionary tale in this regard, doubtless one that has been discussed whenever documents surface.

Does the church have secret documents that contradict church claims?

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As to the outcomes, if the case actually were proven, then worst case, the UK govt could seize the church’s assets in the UK against repayment of tithes to all UK members (class action style). Chances of that happening are incredibly remote.  Most likely this will just be either a black eye to the church from a publicity standpoint, or we’ll see defenders of religious freedom come out to protect us.  Either way, buckle in.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

What do you think will be the likely outcome of this trial? (Choose all that apply)

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Discuss.

[1] It’s not difficult to imagine the claims of others sects that could be subject to similar scrutiny if a former parishioner were so inclined.  Transubstantiation is certainly an example.  Even the idea of expiation for sin is unprovable.  In essence, churches provide both the disease (guilt) and the cure (repentance), at least to non-believers.

[2] After my tour of the Vatican, I’d just like to know where they are keeping all the hacked off statue penises.  In a broom closet?  In a coptic jar?  Does that tour cost more?

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49 Responses to Mormonism on Trial in the UK (plus early Weekend Poll)

  1. alice on February 6, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    I haven’t thought that the “fraud” in question was that Pres. Monson does or does not believe the teachings of the church literally but that the institutional church of which he is head used the doctrines cited to extract tithing payments from the members brining suit.

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  2. hawkgrrrl on February 6, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Alice – since the suit named Thomas S. Monson rather than the church, I believe this interpretation is correct (that his earnestness would have to be proven), but it’s hard to say.

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  3. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    i think the other issue is that they would be hard pressed to tie the payment of voluntary donations directly to the truth of those claims. If they tried to tie it to the Temple recommend questions, none of those particular issues are even addressed.

    As for the Vatican, if you want to see the world’s largest collection of Roman God statues, that is definitely the place. What message might that send to members?

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  4. Andrew on February 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Isn’t Pres. Monson the coporation sole over the Church? If so, wouldn’t that put a suit levied against him the same as a suit levied against the church? (I’m not sure on this)

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  5. hawkgrrrl on February 6, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Andrew: Proving fraud against Pres. Monson or against the church as a whole would be equally difficult. If against Pres. Monson, he’s given hundreds or thousands of talks about how living the gospel has enriched his life. While that’s not a traditional Mormon testimony, it is sufficient to demonstrate sincerity of faith. As to the church as a whole, IMO that would be even more impossible to prove because the truth claims listed in the document all have contradictory doctrinal statements on them throughout church history. There may be 80% of leaders saying roughly the same thing, but we’ve got well regarded outliers like Nibley, Talmage and B.H. Roberts that clearly demonstrate diverse opinions on doctrine, especially where it intersects with science. So nailing down the church’s stance is equally hard to nailing down an individual leader’s sincerity of belief. Maybe that’s really what Tom P. is after: getting the church to disavow outdated anti-science teachings. Nah, I doubt it. I think he wants a mass exodus of UK members, following the process he did.

    Jeff: It’s an excellent point as well. However, in the US v. Ballard case, it wasn’t directly tied in that way either, so I don’t know what a UK court would do. Essentially, religions take donations (in amounts that don’t beggar the donating individuals as the case notes from Ballard pointed out). If they do not believe their own claims and use deceit deliberately to get donations, that’s the material issue (again, according to the US case), not the content of those claims, their veracity, or even their credibility. Just whether the leaders believe the claims or teachings in encouraging and taking donations. And according to Judge Jackson, you get what you pay for. Caveat emptor.

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  6. Howard on February 6, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    I suspect this will just turn out to be a tempest in a English court docket’s teapot leading to a quick dismissal.

    But that claim a while back that the brethren don’t believe the church’s truth claims and a $1 million sign on bonus for new Apostles sticks in my mind as an explanation of what might be motivating this. If he actually believes those claims he may believe the church will be willing write a big check to keep it all quiet should the case go forward and if not, well he will be able to ask TSM a lot of interesting questions although if history is any guide I wouldn’t put much stock in the answers.

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  7. Andrew on February 6, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    hawkgrrrl – Thanks for the explanation. However, I was mainly curious as to the legal situation regarding corporation soles. That could explain why the suit was levied against Monson and not the church as an organization.

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  8. Eric S. on February 6, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    What lies did the Nauvoo Expositor tell about Joseph Smith?

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  9. boblawblah on February 6, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Regarding points 6 and 7, the post says that the church has no official stance. That may be so, but I think Jesus is going to disagree with the church on that point. D&C 77 was a Q&A between Jesus and Joseph Smith about the meaning of the Book of Revelation. Jesus is pretty clear that the temporal existence of the earth is 7000 years (including the millennium apparently). That doctrine, in combination with the doctrine of no death before the fall, provides a rather large barrier to any doctrinally consistent belief that the earth is anything but 6000 years old. Hard to reconcile, I know, but you dismiss this by saying that this was a long-ago prophet just speaking as a man. Unless, of course, Jesus was just speaking as a man.

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  10. boblawblah on February 6, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    …you CAN’T dismiss this by saying …

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  11. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    ” And according to Judge Jackson, you get what you pay for. Caveat emptor.”

    Well, if that were entirely true, thee are many TV Preachers who might be in trouble saying “give me money and “this result” will happen….”

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  12. B.Rodney on February 6, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Both of these claims by Greg1984; “vi) There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago. Some Mormons believe this, some do not. The Church has no official stance.
    vii) All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago. Most Mormons believe this, some do not. The Church has no official stance.” Are incorrect.
    Nephi 2:22 in the Book of Mormon, states that there was no death before the Fall of Adam. Therefore as it is in the scripture it is the stance of the church.
    Also the Doctorine and Covenants 77:5-7 empirically states that the earth has had a temporal existence of 7000 years. therefore once again this must be the stance of the church…

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  13. bitherwack on February 6, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    I appreciate the article, but somewhat resent your placing survey questions about my opinions related to the various topics. It doesn’t matter what my opinion is. (or anyone else’s is, for that matter.) My opinion will have no affect on the truth. Whether I believe President Monson is sincere has no bearing on whether he really is sincere. I find the implication that the results of the poll are in any way relevant… as if this blog were some kind of USAtoday fluff piece.

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  14. Ray on February 6, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    “This must be the stance of the church.”

    Oh, that things were that simple.

    I think the most telling aspect of all of this is the belief by many of his “supporters” that the Church’s release of updated explanations is a result of this lawsuit. That is laughable. This was authorized and begun LONG before the lawsuit started or was threatened. To claim he is responsible for the newly published materials is the height of arrogance – seriously, the apex of egomania.

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  15. B.Rodney on February 6, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    But they are Ray… Or are you saying that the LDS scriptures are up to interpretation? I certainly don’t know any LDS person who would say that they were…

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  16. Criollo on February 6, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    I think the difference between literal translation and inspired translation is splitting hairs. Everyone is familiar with the church’s claims about the origins of the BoA and many are familiar with what the source material for the BoA actually was. I think it comes down to something much greater than a difference between inspired and literal. Unless inspired translation is taken to mean look at text with which you are unfamiliar and make something up about it.

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  17. New Iconoclast on February 6, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Seriously, as of my entering this comment, 48% of commenters think that “most members have been taught these seven things as factual”? In what benighted backwater do you folks live, anyway? I think that, in particular, I have never heard #1, #6, or #7 seriously proposed in any teaching situation in the Church without being quickly and effectively challenged, and at the least, considerable uncertainty established. I have certainly never heard them taught as capital-T Truth over the pulpit.

    Now, I’m not quite 50, and I’ve been a member for only 28 years, so those of you who date back to President Grant might have – but, really, “most members” ?

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  18. hawkgrrrl on February 6, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    bitherwack: obviously the poll results have no bearing or relevance to the actual case. I was merely sociologically curious about what our readership thinks of these points. I certainly agree that reader opinions have no bearing on the actual truth or the case itself. We all (at the site) have some interest in the outcome, and poll questions generate discussion.

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  19. Kullervo on February 6, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Isn’t Pres. Monson the coporation sole over the Church? If so, wouldn’t that put a suit levied against him the same as a suit levied against the church? (I’m not sure on this)

    No. A Corporation Sole is not the same thing as a sole proprietorship.

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  20. Hedgehog on February 6, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    NI, deep in JFS and BRM country here in Britain I’m afraid. I try to speak up in lessons, but those things are taught in this country still by local leaders, and often I’m regarded as a maverick. Just a couple of weeks ago our GD teacher (recently released from Stake Presidency) at the end of the lesson bore testimony to the truthfulness of vi and vii, and I was told there was no time to dispute.

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  21. New Iconoclast on February 6, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Oh, Hedgehog, I would never recommend that you dispute. If I were you, I’d settle for the simple statement that in the year of our Lord MMXIV, it is simply unthinkable for any educated person to believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. That’s oh-so-very-far beyond disputable.

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  22. jg on February 6, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Tom Phillips is still a member on paper. He has not requested his name be removed from church records nor has he been excommunicated. Why? He runs Mormon Think. Steve Benson is helping Tom Phillips with this suit. (from what I have read on sites that are critical to the LdS church). Tom Phillips was quoted as saying if Monson wins this it will be because Monson and his lawyers tricked the jurors. Wow, trick the jurors.

    This suit can pose problems for all religions. This suit can restrict religious freedoms and beliefs. Does the Catholic church have financial disclosure? God can not be proven, the
    teachings in the Bible and BofM can not be proven that the teachings came from God, the Resurrection can not be proven. Any one can claim any religion can hurt and poison people. Have not Atheists been trying to sue Christianity in general for similiar claims?
    Just thinking out loud. Thanks.

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  23. hawkgrrrl on February 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    jg: Thanks for the clarification on Tom’s membership status.

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  24. MOQT on February 6, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    @B.Rodney…
    “Or are you saying that the LDS scriptures are up to interpretation? I certainly don’t know any LDS person who would say that they were…”

    I’m LDS and I would say the LDS scriptures are most definitely up to interpretation. Given Isaiah and Jesus’ parables alone, I’d say they absolutely require interpretation. They simply are not clear cut. Such is the case with most of our early church documents as well. Even the apostles interpret things differently from each other. And they pretty much always have. Even in Joseph’s day.

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  25. Howard on February 6, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    There may be more to this than a simple filing:

    The summonses…were issued after a private prosecution bid by London-based Tom Phillips, author of Mormonthink…The summonses were brought under little-used legal procedures where people who say they have evidence that someone has committed a crime can ask a magistrate to issue a summons for them to attend court…District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe, who signed the summonses, accuses Mr Monson of ‘dishonestly’ making a gain for himself or another’ by asking two men to pay tithes on the basis of ‘untrue or misleading’ representations.

    Regarding the above article someone with the screen name of steve benson on RfM states…the District Judge spent a great deal of time grilling Philips on the nature and content of his case, questioned him every which-way over months’ time, and eventually agreed that his presented points warranted a service of summons. It was a long ordeal for Phillips, as he has described it to me.

    I’m not an attorney but I have seen a similar type of statute successfully used by a private individual in California against one of the largest most recognizable global corporation names.

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  26. Kullervo on February 6, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    I’m not an attorney but I have seen a similar type of statute successfully used by a private individual in California against one of the largest most recognizable global corporation names.

    No, you definitely haven’t. Private individuals in the US definitely cannot initiate criminal proceedings. It’s not an uncommon legal phenomenon in Europe, but it’s not how our legal system works.

    US statutes may give private individuals the right to sue in civil court, but not criminal.

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  27. Kullervo on February 6, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    This suit can pose problems for all religions. This suit can restrict religious freedoms and beliefs. Does the Catholic church have financial disclosure? God can not be proven, the teachings in the Bible and BofM can not be proven that the teachings came from God, the Resurrection can not be proven. Any one can claim any religion can hurt and poison people.

    The mere ability to file a suit, even if you have to convince a magistrate that your case is meritorious, does not “pose problems for all religions.” Tomorrow, I could walk into court and file a lawsuit against any church in America, provided I can come up with the filing fee and scrawl out a complaint (no matter how bogus) on a form. If I can serve the defendant properly, he’ll be required to respond or forefeit. I could repeat this as many times as I am able to cough up the filing fee. Totally regardless of whether or not I have a genuine, colorable claim.

    The fact that it is possible to sue churches does not pose problems for religions. Problems for religions are posed when courts start ruling against churches.

    Have not Atheists been trying to sue Christianity in general for similiar claims?

    You would have a very hard time serving process on “Christianity in general.”

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  28. Howard on February 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Okay Kullervo esq. you’re right it was civil private attorney general action but I assure you it was VERY effective.

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  29. Ray on February 6, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    What bothers me most about this is that I see MormonThink as fraudulent in nature (being presented intentionally as something it is not – an objective source of facts). Thus, I see someone who, as its managing editor, is a fraud charging fraud – and doing so by using charges that have nothing to do with the central issue alleged in the lawsuit (that financial contributions, essentially, are extorted from members as a result of the fraudulent claims listed therein).

    1) The claims listed aren’t even accurate, as Hawk has pointed out in this thread.

    2) More importantly, not one of the claims has any bearing whatsoever on the payment of tithing or temple attendance. There are members who believe the claims who pay tithing or don’t and who attend the temple or don’t, and the same is true of members who don’t pay tithing and/or attend the temple. The list is irrelevant to the charge.

    I see this as nothing more than an attempt to embarrass, discredit and harm the Church, with no concern for the accuracy of the allegations – which means I see it as fraudulent in nature, as well.

    So, I see a fraud who is alleging fraud by perpetrating fraud.

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  30. Kullervo on February 6, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Okay Kullervo esq. you’re right it was civil private attorney general action but I assure you it was VERY effective.

    No question!

    But you’re talking about a situation where a specific new right of action (i.e. one that would not otherwise be available under the common law) is explicitly created by statute. It isn’t just like a generally applicable principle.

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  31. Howard on February 6, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Well after doing more research prompted by Kullervo’s criminal vs civil distinction I think Tom Phillips is going to wish he had gone civil rather than criminal because the bar is significantly lower, I doubt he can clear the criminal hurtle. So with that I’ll revert back to my #6 comment position.

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  32. Kullervo on February 6, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    I am inclined to suspect, as a practical matter, that this lawsuit ain’t got no legs on it, no matter how bad the Church’s detractors desperately want it to and think it should.

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  33. Hedgehog on February 7, 2014 at 1:55 AM

    NI (21), I guess that *dispute* wasn’t my best choice of word, but still, I think the age of the earth isn’t so much a problem, given ‘creative periods’ as opposed to days, but I have no idea how anyone is able to reconcile ‘no death’ with the fossil record etc., in any sensible way. And, even otherwise intelligent educated people are very scathing about science.

    The list doesn’t surprise me given my experiences growing up in the church in Britain, Mormon Doctrine was pretty much gospel truth for devout members, but I dont think the action is going to go anywhere.

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  34. Jonathan on February 7, 2014 at 6:57 AM

    I don’t know Tom Philips. He likely has good reasons for his bitterness (although I’d be surprised if Monson is anything other than a believer). I’m sure Phillips is intelligent enough to know that his stunt is likely to result only in bad publicity for the Church, which I suspect is what he had in mind when deciding on his course of action.

    And Hedgehog, I don’t know how you do it. Putting up with that nonsense at Church on a regular basis. I admire you and others like you. As for me, a non-believing less-active English Mormon who hasn’t attended Church in 18 years, I hope I live to see the day when a truly reformist alternative emerges dedicated to preserving and expanding the best that Mormonism has to offer. I love being Mormon and I love the institutional Church, warts and all, nonetheless. I cannot imagine resigning from it. But some of us do need a viable alternative.

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  35. Jared on February 7, 2014 at 7:11 AM

    The legal action brought against President Monson is serious. How serious remains to be seen. I’m not of a mind to shrug it off as being a sideshow. I hope that is how it turns out, but the fact remains that the church is experiencing difficult times.

    Faith is simultaneously being destroyed or weakened, created or strengthened as the church and church membership are exposed to decisions made many years ago to present a “photo shopped” church history.

    I fully expect to see a continued purging in the church that will include members at all levels including the general authorities.

    The only way to survive and thrive spiritually is to diligently seek for the gift of the Holy Ghost which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the the children of men (D&C 18:18).

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  36. fbisti on February 7, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    #17–Iconoclast says: “I have never heard #1, #6, or #7 seriously proposed in any teaching situation in the Church without being quickly and effectively challenged, and at the least, considerable uncertainty established.”

    My experience differs significantly and substantially from yours. For the past 40+ years since my mission I have lived (and actively attended all my church meetings) in several places around the country (Ohio, Calif, Texas, Arizona, and very briefly, Provo). The vast majority of members seem to believe and support 1, 6, and 7 (and a lot of other such baloney). Those beliefs/doctrines are promulgated from the pulpit, in the classrooms, and in General Conference.

    It is rare for anyone to speak up and disagree–which doesn’t mean that there aren’t some who do. Many years ago I gave up making comments because attempting to enlighten my (mostly willfully) ignorant, head-in-the-sand brothers and sisters is like trying to teach a pig how to sing: it just annoys the pig.

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  37. hawkgrrrl on February 7, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Well, looking further at the information about what the suit is really about, the objective is to alert the crown that missionary efforts are based on untruths and require tithing to obtain eternal families (to enter the temple). When I look at the number of people making the assertion that where they’ve attended church things were consistently taught that are consistent with these things, I’m still a bit floored. I’ve heard diverse opinions about most of these things, and beyond that I simply didn’t buy some of them, even as a teen:

    1 – The Book of Abraham is a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith. (I was taught this, but in looking into it the claim is “inspired,” not “literal,” so the church’s official teaching isn’t what people assume).
    2 – The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by Joseph Smith is the most correct book on earth and is an ancient historical record. (yes, this is taught).
    3 – Native Americans are descended from an Israelite family which left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. (It hasn’t been taught that ALL native Americans are descended from Israelites in my lifetime. Yes, early church members believed that, but limited geography model is what has prevailed since I’ve been alive).
    4 – Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon. (Yes, I was taught this, but it’s subjectively true).
    5 – The Illinois newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor had to be destroyed because it printed lies about Joseph Smith. (Yes, I was taught this, but it’s true even if it’s not the whole truth).
    6 – There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago. (If I was ever taught this, it was not in any official capacity. It was clearly considered speculation, and it’s not something credible. I went to school, for crying out loud. Who would believe this?)
    7 – All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago. (Again, I went to school. I don’t need church to explain science to me. I don’t pay tithing because of scientific claims that are obvious nonsense. However, the “version” of this I’ve heard is that Adam & Eve may have been – speculation – the first sentient humans or the step in evolution that led to present day.)

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  38. E on February 7, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Good grief. I really did grow up in a “backwater” but I cannot imagine that there is a large percentage of church members who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, or that there was no death on the earth prior to 6,000 years ago.

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  39. ji on February 8, 2014 at 2:31 AM

    So what’s the harm if someone chooses to believe, as a matter of faith, that “[a]ll humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago.” There’s no charity in calling that person ignorant. Maybe charity is more important than knowledge?

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  40. hawkgrrrl on February 8, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    ji: Given how much ignorance there is in the world, you are probably right.

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  41. Brian on February 8, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    “I fully expect to see a continued purging in the church that will include members at all levels including the general authorities.”

    If it makes you feel better, please continue to refer to members leaving the church as a “purging”, implying that the church, god or Satan are ridding the church of the impure therein. I view the worldwide movement of people leaving religion behind as reality catching up with the myths that man has created for tens of thousands of years.

    No doubt since Brother Phillips has chosen this arena to get answers to his questions, he will be “purged”.

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  42. jspector106 on February 8, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    “but I cannot imagine that there is a large percentage of church members who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, or that there was no death on the earth prior to 6,000 years ago.”

    Believe it. Though even BRM did not teach this, nor did he believe it. He did some calculation based on the 6000 years X number of days X 1 “day of the Lord equals 1,000 years. That number is pretty large.

    Think 6 creative periods.

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  43. Howard on February 9, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    YOUNG EARTH: Do the revelations teach a 7,000 year temporal existence of the earth? Can the scriptures and writings of the presidents of the church be harmonized with the scientific principle of Uniformitarianism?

    Joseph Smith Foundation
    http://www.josephsmithforum.org/research/faqs/28-young-earth-do-the-revelations-teach-a-7000-year-temporal-existence-of-the-earth-can-the-scriptures-and-writings-of-the-presidents-of-the-church-be-harmonized-with-the-scientific-principle-of-u/

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  44. hawkgrrrl on February 9, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    We just had the lesson on the “six creative periods” in Gospel Doctrine last month, and our teacher specifically said the same thing I’ve heard teachers say whenever it is taught (in my experience, that it’s describing unspecified time periods, and we don’t know how long they were. So for 44% of survey respondents to say that these statements are taught consistently as written, that has not been my experience in the 46 years I’ve been in the church. Yes, I would say it’s been taught as a literal creation, not a figurative one (usually), but not with specific claims that contradict science. The first time I heard of it being equal to 6,000 years was as an adult in Utah, and it was still explained to me as a “theory” that Cleon Skousen used to sell a boatload of books to people trying to prove God stuff using bad math.

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  45. Howard on February 9, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Unspoken (so to speak) Mormonism 101: Young earth followed the path of other nonsense once authoritatively spoken with such certitude from our prophets, today we simply ignore it and most act as if it were never spoken. Everyone knows THAT nonsense doesn’t count but the nonsense spoken today does!

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  46. Howard on February 9, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Mormonism is an allegory!

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  47. Ray on February 9, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    If the totality of statements made about the age of the earth (and ONLY the age of the earth) from Mormon leaders is considered (especially those in my lifetime), there absolutely is no consensus that the earth itself is only 6,000 years old. Furthermore, evolution is taught openly and exclusively in the Science Departments of the Church’s universities – and has been for quite some time.

    There are statements that point to young earth creationism, but most statements that people use to make that claim don’t specify a young earth. They simply posit the age of the earth since Adam and Eve entered this world as fallen mortals within the 6,000 year calculation – assuming that the Biblical chronology is correct once Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden and that the creation narrative is literal. I don’t agree with either of those conclusions, but that is completely separate from the question of the age of the earth itself.

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  48. jared91 on February 9, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    How long is an eternity? Early church members had reason to believe that an eternity had a beginning and an end. The material this earth is made of is much older than 6000 years.

    Here is one example of this thinking articulated by Elder McConkie.

    “How long did Adam and Abraham and Jeremiah (and all men!) spend in preparing to take the test of a mortal probation? What ages and eons and eternities passed away while Christ dwelt in the Eternal Presence and did the work then assigned him? How can we measure infinite duration in finite terms? To such questions we have no definitive answers. Suffice it to say, the passage of time was infinite from man’s viewpoint. We have an authentic account, which can be accepted as true, that life has been going on in this system for almost 2,555,000,000 years. Presumably this system is the universe (or whatever scientific term is applicable) created by the Father through the instrumentality of the Son.” Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol.1, p.29

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  49. Jared on February 9, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    I’m sorry that I didn’t push the right buttons for what I entered in #48.

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