Welcome to Kay Burningham's blog
about Mormonism: An American Fraud


Meet Kay Burningham,
attorney, advocate, and author of
An American Fraud: One Lawyer's Case against Mormonism

Here we discuss the truth about Mormonism--what people know, but are afraid to say and what others don't know, but are afraid to learn.


Please visit Kay's official site at kayburningham.com




Excerpt from Reader review

"...Kay Burningham’s painstaking studies unfolded for her, and now her readers, the details of a grotesque fraud of cosmic proportions masquerading under a charitable faƧade of public spirited nobility. In her book, Kay demonstrates for the world to see, how a reasonable application of the law should be applied to the “affinity fraud” of Mormonism, whose very continued existence employs the quiet acquiescence of government officials and judicial officers whose canons of ethics demand of them a higher standard than to allow this fraud to continue unchecked.

An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism, is, ..., an historically significant work that calls out the most insidious fraud of American culture for what it is. It is a timeless masterpiece, and will be associated with the beginning of the end of Mormonism in years to come.


For more information about the book, click here

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Direct from Cradle to MTC: Mormon Leaders Lower Threshold Ages for Missionary Service


At LDS general conference this weekend, President Thomas Monson announced a new rule:  young men would now be able to serve missions when they had graduated high school and turned 18, young women  can now serve at 19.  This age requirement was lowered from the previous threshold ages of 19 and 21, respectively.  In response to post-announcement questions by the local press corps, Mormon-owned NBC-affiliate KSL Television reported Apostle Jeffrey Holland stating that: “The demand for missionaries is expanding…” However, before Holland could finish that statement, KSL quickly cut to a commercial and returned to the reporters several seconds later.

I questioned that statement, whether in fact the demand for missionaries was expanding.  If it was, whose demand was it?  I recalled hearing that many Mormon missions had been closed around the turn of the last century, in the early 2000s.  I found a website which I had previously seen, documenting this change:   http://tinyurl.com/8ww8m96


The map depicts the closure (blue) and openings (red) of LDS missions since the year 2000.  According to the creator of the map, this data is taken directly from official LDS sources.  One can see that closed missions are largely in Western Europe, Japan and the US Eastern Seaboard, while newly opened missions are concentrated in Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the US Mormon corridor.  Here we have proof that the educated are rejecting Mormonism and that the Church is now concentrating its proselytizing efforts on those in developing counties and the descendants of Deseret’s original Mormon pioneers—those children who have had little chance to peek beyond the Zion Curtain.

Clearly, the need for more missionaries is not for the educated of the world.  The question must be asked: with its theology of other-worldly rewards in exchange for a commitment to sacrifice time, money and resources earned in this life, however meager, will Mormonism truly benefit these developing countries?  History tells us that the poor who yearned for a better life followed Joseph Smith and Brigham Young westward to create their own ‘Kingdom of God on Earth.’  Many emigrated from Europe in mid-19th century, selling all they had, for promises of a better life.  Many of the descendants of these same pioneers have realized the insidious fraud of the organization and, many after living a life dedicated to its nonsense, have left it.  Perhaps this Mormon carrot, clearly beyond its prime in the educated world, can yet serve as nourishment for those people who are not as sophisticated as their European or East Coast counterparts regarding the management of social capital.

As documented in the Trinity College Study of last December, apostasy rates are rising for young Mormon men and the LDS Church overstates its membership numbers (in the US).  http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/12/Mormons2008.pdf  Less than a year ago, when asked whether Church members were “leaving in droves,” self-identified Democrat, Marlin K. Jensen, then official Church historian, admitted at USU that:  “maybe since Kirtland, [Ohio, early 19th century] we never have had a period of, I'll call it apostasy, like we're having right now."  http://mormon-chronicles.blogspot.com/2012/02/discussion-of-mormon-apostasy-spreads.html.

As part of the rationale for lowering the age requirements, Church officials explained at the Saturday conference that LDS missionary president[s] have said to the leaders:  “Give me more 18 year- olds.  They’re sweeter; they’re purer, they’re smarter.”  Young Mormons are insulated from the real world at every opportunity by parents and leaders, their time spent at meetings and with tedious and redundant cult-like memorization leading to awards and achievements of questionable value.  

More missionaries might be required not only for more converts, but to ensure an increase in the number of dedicated young people, before they have a chance to think outside their familial lifestyle and perhaps chose a different path in life than the Mormon way.  Serving a 1.5-2 year mission at 18 or 19 will leave little chance for young Mormons to compare the teachings of Mormonism with other religions or philosophies.  These young innocents, lacking any true choice, will no doubt willingly serve to replace the loss of the young men documented by the Trinity Study.  For young men at least, if they are whisked away to an intense training center soon after high school graduation, gone is that first year of college, or opportunity to work in the real world, either of which might have provided an alternative glimpse into new and perhaps superior ways of living.

As Apostle Holland declared, the demand for missionaries does in fact appear to be increasing.  However, this demand appears to be the Church’s own.   



Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Book of Mormon Girl: Joanna Brooks Avoids the Hard Questions

Joanna Brook's tells an excellent story of her very Mormon child and young adulthood. Many Mormons will relate to the things she describes: the fun pioneer day celebrations, the home-made fruit preserves, feeling as if you had the answers to the big questions in life—what will happen when we die, how do we fit in this increasingly complex and frightening world?

Mormon women will relate to the desperation Brooks so eloquently describes: “For years, I cried every time I set foot in a Mormon ward house. Crying out of fear and anger and loneliness and misunderstanding. Crying that the Church had punished women like me, people like me, leaving us exiled among our own.” (Kindle location 1687). Beginning in her teens, through her young adult years at BYU and beyond into graduate school, she questions the value of her gender. These questions increasingly appear to cause her despair and angst. Then, she describes her complete dismay and disagreement with the LDS position on Proposition 8, California’s successful ballot measure which overturned the legislated and judicially upheld law allowing same-sex marriage. In contravention of LDS policy, she openly advocates voting “No,” on Proposition 8.

Yet Brooks barely alludes to the real problems with Mormonism: the suppression and misrepresentation by Church leaders of historical facts. Members who have questioned this white-washed version of Mormonism’s historical and theological foundation have been criticized. Leaders have openly denounced intelligent inquiry into these issues. Members of the LDS hierarchy have pronounced as heretical the discussion, let alone exhibition, of true feminine power and have unabashedly exhibited the above-described patent bigotry against same sex-marriage. Why so much backlash against an advocacy of true history and basic human rights? Why all the insular Mormon secrets and narrow-minded thinking?

The author conveniently skips over the real, underlying problem with the LDS Religion: that it was built and continues to be presented as something that historical documents reveal it never was: gospel teachings from an ancient history written by American prophets on golden plates. Brooks ends her book with a plea for a pluralistic Zion, one that mirrors her marriage to her Jewish husband and their admirable effort to bring both religious (and perhaps cultural) traditions together for the sake of their young children. Hers is a worthy goal. However, it cannot be obtained by sweeping real doctrinal and historical issues under the carpet as Brooks has done. These need to be exposed and examined for what they are, addressed openly and then, dealt with. This is something that, absent a demand from Mormons within the Church, will never be done. Yet this very thing is what is necessary.

Brooks doesn’t want to be a victim, decries any civil action for redress based upon a false representation of the source of the religion (yet, by her very admission of the possibility, inadvertently acknowledges a real problem): “Do we sue to get our tithes and offerings back, all the dollars we faithfully mailed to Salt Lake City, to build temples we would never see?” (Kindle location 2261). Here she seems to have some sort of insider’s knowledge that the LDS Church is cutting back on its temple building.

The author seems to forget a teaching that is true in most all religions: repentance. The secular counterpart to confess, redress, forgive and “go and sin no more,” is restitution. A proper civil action filed against those who have committed fraud in the inducement is nothing more than Mormons seeking redress for the sin committed against them by their leaders. It is restitution! Certainly Hebraic theology would endorse such an attempt. There is nothing wrong or sinful in bringing a lawsuit against an entity that has misrepresented its origins, and by doing so, obtained billions of dollars in tithes under false pretenses. This is redress, an important step in the repentance of the LDS hierarchy. Some would argue (even if only from a psychological perspective) that it is impossible to move on, to achieve that pluralistic utopia to which Brooks aspires, without such a step.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NO BRIGHT LINE TEST FOR FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS WITHIN LDS INC.

Never mind the controversial mock-up cover, the content of the article by Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter Caroline Winter reveals more about the Church of Latter-day Saints than any parody. The article, centered on her extensive research and interviews with Mormon business leaders, details the expansive financial empire owned, controlled and manipulated by the Mormon hierarchy. More remarkably, given comments posted to the Salt Lake Tribune’s subsequent piece setting forth the dismayed and even shocked response by Mormons, it appears that Mormanity is generally accepting of the structure and financial practices among the entities in the Mormon Conglomerate.

Winter concludes in her article “How the Mormons Make Money,” June 13, 2012, that: “In some cases money flows in the opposite direction, from the church’s treasury to the businesses.” Two CEOs for LDS business entities make interesting admissions regarding the interplay between Church and business funds. In an apparent response to Winter’s questions about that relationship, CEO of LDS subsidiary, Desert Management Corporation (DMC), Keith McMullin, admits: “From time to time, if there is a particular need, there would be some monies available [from the church treasury fund] but fortunately over the years that has not been the case very often,” says McMullin. “If you have a particular reversal in an enterprise, you need to have some additional cash flow until you work through a difficult time. I’ll give you an example, [sic] we’re going through one right now: It’s called a recession.” Winter notes that “McMillin declined to elaborate on whether the church has been bailing out subsidiaries.”

Later in the article, Sheri Dew, CEO of the DMC subsidiary, Deseret Book, admits that a decade ago the business was “in the red,” and that ultimately she had to ask for help from the Church. “Asking your prophet to fund a flailing business can be stressful,” she says.

The practice of using money from Church donations to fund business enterprises, even if a temporary or occasional transaction, and whether these transactions are loans or rise to the level of commingling, is reminiscent of the early days of Mormonism. Nineteenth century LDS prophet-presidents Joseph Smith and Brigham Young used LDS Church funds as their own, or liberally borrowed interest free, from those accounts. Clearly, in modern Mormonism, there is no bright line test for what can and cannot be done with donated funds. Recently the Church has made clear on its donation receipts that once the donations are received, “…all will be used at the Church’s discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.” Below are scanned copies, provided by a member of http://www.postmormon.org of the current receipt (right) and the prior (left).

Noticeably absent in the revised receipt are line item entries for specific donations to temple building, education and scripture funds. Does this mean the Church will no longer be spending money on these projects? If so, what exactly is its current ‘overall mission’? The new receipt advises: “Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to ensure that tithing is used as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and all will be used at the Church’s discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.” Previously, the limiting language at the end of the receipt referred only to tithing donations. It read: “All donations to the Church’s missionary fund become the property of the Church to be used at the Church’s sole discretion in the missionary program.”

The non-profit part of the LDS Church is organized and receives tax-exempt benefits under IRS code section 501(c)(3). Among the many limitations of a non-profit organization, such an entity cannot receive and distribute income that inures to the benefit of any one private individual, or participate directly in political matters. The Church has managed to avoid crossing these lines, but just barely. Their open encouragement of members’ participation in support of California Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, is one recent example.

The LDS Church seems to be walking a fine line between participation in ordinary activities, the type expected by a religious organization, and using donations for profit-making enterprises. Historically, most members of the LDS Church hierarchy can be traced to a select number of families, whether by blood or marriage. Instead of benefitting LDS average congregants, LDS business enterprises benefit only these privileged families in the Mormon machine; some refer to this old Mormon family monopoly on business (especially in the State of Utah) as the Mormon Mafia. Others have referred to entering Utah for business or even travel purposes as going behind the Zion Curtain.

One wonders how frequently, and to what extent, LDS Church money-making enterprises are in fact supported by faithful members’ tithes. Couldn’t most all of these successful business ventures be traced back to initial tithing seed money? Most certainly the primary, if not sole, source of income for the Church treasury account is from LDS member donations.

Compare this set-up to the duties professionals have to their clients: Attorneys, CPAs and real estate brokers all have a duty to separate client money from their business accounts. Money in client trust accounts can only be used for exactly what the client has specified. Never can the business income for the profession be mixed with the client’s money. Commingling is grounds for severe discipline under each professions’ code of ethics. As Park B. Romney, former CFO of a publicly held corporation and tax accountant has commented: “In the United States, organized religion becomes a license to steal, due to the unwillingness of oversight authorities (I.R.S., F.B.I., et. al.) and, in many cases, the judiciary, to hold Church leaders to the strict standards of fiduciary accountability which apply to business professionals.” When you use funds intended to promote spiritual growth for commercial gain, even if used only occasionally, like DMC CEO McMullin seems to have admitted, it is difficult to justify how the City Creek Mall or the profits from the other LDS businesses benefit the average Church member.

Most LDS members believe tithing money is used for the poor, for building chapels and temples, perhaps for religious education. I think many would be surprised to learn that it can be used for strictly financial enterprises like those run by DMC, the Church’s for profit umbrella. I suppose this is where building up the Kingdom of God on Earth is mentioned and the fine line between spiritual and temporal prosperity is blurred. But the question begs to be asked: does the Kingdom of God really need a billion dollar shopping mall, hunting preserves and a new hotel in Maui? As a couple of my Facebook friends have pointed out, wouldn’t the subjects in the Kingdom of God (on Earth) be better served if the Church built and supported medical clinics and homeless shelters? Sadly, the duty of Church leaders to make appropriate use of members’ contributions is blurred when those leaders convince the members that virtually anything they deem appropriate, in an environment of no real accountability, is, therefore appropriate, simply because the leader said so. Trust and faith in what will be done to build the Kingdom of God is mandatory; there is no oversight committee among the average LDS membership.

Certainly, using Church treasury money benefits those who work directly for the businesses; these people and their families are likely to be active members of the Church. This money is also used to pay salaries of upper echelon LDS leaders. (Note: some lay members of the LDS Church don’t realize that LDS general authorities are indeed paid a salary. This is most likely due to the leaders’ constant emphasis that “We have a lay clergy.” And while this is certainly true at the lower levels, from hard-working bishops to stake presidents, it is not true when referencing the first presidency, the twelve apostles and the two quorums of the Seventies—over 100 men. According to insiders who work at the Church office building—these men are all paid six figure salaries).

Non-profit organizations are required to return at least 5% of their gross receipts to charity. In the Church’s case, some of that 5% requirement is returned to the local wards, to provide financial relief for members of that particular ward. But according to several former LDS ward clerks who have posted their experiences on websites for former Mormons, most wards raise anywhere from $250,000 to $500,00 per year, yet it was quite common for these same wards to receive back as little as 1% of the amount they donated to Church headquarters in Salt Lake.

The LDS Church is not required, nor does it voluntarily disclose, how its income from member donations is spent. Unfortunately, unlike the relationship between a professional and his client, Mormon leaders, both business and ecclesiastical, act as if they have no legally recognized fiduciary duty toward their flock. In this writer’s opinion, that matter of law should be clarified and changed. If it were, organized religion would no longer be a license to steal and Mormons would have a greater voice in the determination of how their hard-earned donations are spent. If it were, the bright line test might replace the fine line equivocal excuse.

Friday, June 1, 2012

MORMONISM: CRIMES & CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Last night I received an unsolicited text message from “Morrow.” It arrived while I was texting a message to my 18 year-old son. The lengthy spam, complete with dozens of links to news articles, chronicled ostensible Mormon “hate crimes,” listing incidents of vandalism, graffiti, assault and battery and arson over the past decade or so, committed against LDS property and some Mormon individuals. It appears that a formal organization has been created to deal with this 'problem.' Morrow writes: “The society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism tracks instances of vandalism, violence and persecution against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members.”

This latter-day saint then writes that: “Few people outside the Church have any appreciation of the level of hostility that is leveled at the Church.” Among the extensive list of crimes in the text message is the notation: “19 November, 2008, South Park creators announce “Mormon Musical,” which ridicules latter-day saints.” Morrows spam list, is an attempt to include legitimate literary and artistic criticism with crimes against Mormons. It is an excellent example of the logical fallacy known as hasty generalization. Morrow implies that all the activities he lists must be criminal, hateful or despicable. His error is in his premise, and his implied conclusion is without sufficient foundational evidence. To equate legitimate statements, articles, blogs, publications, and even Broadway musical parodies, with criminal activity is simply sloppy thinking. Such a broad, over-reaching, inclusive grouping of activities, done without considering all of the variables attendant to each incident, induces the conclusion that all statements against Mormons are criminal. Morrow has failed to make critical distinctions among the activities he enumerates. His analysis is patently absurd.

Morrow correctly claims that vandalism and violence are criminal; however, he then mistakenly lumps the broad and subjective term 'persecution,' together with the crimes. What the society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism might not appreciate is that the actions or speech they term 'persecution,' are not necessarily criminal; indeed, what is characterized as “anti-Mormon,” when limited to statements, publications or even Broadway musicals, is usually the mere exercise of a constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech. Those who exercise this first amendment right, which includes theatre, dance, song and all other forms of expression, and yes, graffiti (the crime is not in the content, but in the trespass to property) are not criminals, but critics. Critical thinking is never a crime—it is a requirement for the improvement of society; otherwise we stagnate in the status quo.

Even the substance of graffiti is not illegal; it is the trespass and damage to property that is the crime, not the content of the words written on the side of the chapel. He lists a case where a Book of Mormon was burned on the doorsteps of a chapel. Again, the right to burn a Book of Mormon is absolutely within the parameters of free speech. It is only where the burning was done (on LDS real estate) that made it criminal. Merely criticizing Mormonism, without more, is not a hate crime. As enlightened minds can appreciate (but those who remain in the dark will never acknowledge) those who speak truth to power are voices of clarity and reason to those who have ears to hear.

Criticizing Mormonism is no different than criticizing Nazism, communism, ethnocentrism, elitism, pessimism, or any other sort of “ism.” Those who were influenced by Hitler, claimed Christianity as their guidepost, believing they were in the right, contemporaneously with the horrible atrocities committed by Nazis. Now, in the 21st-century, most have rejected Hitler's belief system.

Communism too, has lost its adherents and its appeal. In the Cold War Era of my youth, the U.S.S.R. , East Germany and the political framework of most eastern European countries were communist—but the wall fell and freedom is now more widespread. The exceptions, those countries that remain under communist rule, can be listed on one hand: North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, China and Cuba. Was communism good or bad? Depends on who you ask. It was useful for those in power in the 20th century. However, the recent history of global political science has shown that more enlightened minds prevailed and now communism is on its deathbed.

Mormonism will also die. Like the political system that supported the Berlin wall that fell, Mormonism is being exposed for its corruption and will also deconstruct. It is corrupt to its core-- its misrepresentation of its own history, its calculated and manipulative theology, its racism, sexism and active homophobia--all these negative belief systems are being exposed by truth-seekers of the information age. Mormonism will implode. It is just a matter of time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

OPRESSION OF WOMEN UNDER THE PRETEXT OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.” MK Gandhi

I read an essay yesterday that made me cry. “Losing my Religion for Equality,” was published on July 15, 2009 in the National Review. The fact of its publication received little press. An opinion piece about the article appeared in the UK Observer and a reference to the Observer's reporting was mentioned by CBS. But no significant mainstream U.S. coverage was afforded this historically important declaration of personal choice and integrity. The man who wrote the article was familiar to me; his worn, but still handsome face is well-known by admirers worldwide.

Jimmy Carter, President of the United States from 1977 to 1981, had been a deacon and a bible instructor in his Church. This globally-respected, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, broke tradition and what had been until then, a very personal commitment, by renouncing his boyhood religion. At the age of 84, President Carter formally disassociated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist teachings have always been and remain at odds with Carter's personal philosophy—that women are men's equal. Carter, together with a group of like-minded Elders, proclaimed: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

Carter is not alone in this effort. He describes those behind the goal as a group of elders, global leaders, religious and political, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who advocate human rights, including the right of half the world to equal treatment under the law, whether religious or secular. Carter's essay explains that he severed his affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention because it refused to ordain women to the ministry and because it continued to teach that, per Eve's original sin, wives should be subservient to their husbands. With the following statement, President Carter articulately identifies specific acts of female oppression, endemic throughout world history.

"At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities."

Carter goes on to clarify how this pretextual oppression, done in the name of the Almighty, has had a centuries-long global influence over both the civil and criminal laws of all nations. "Male religious leaders have an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world."

I wanted to refresh my recollection about the important contributions that President Carter had made to this country. I looked him up on Wikipedia. I found nothing about his 2009 decision to leave the Baptist Church. Although there are several paragraphs on his Wikipedia biography under 'Faith Family and Community,' no mention is made of Carter's decision to abandon his faith in 2009.

Last year approximately 1,100 pieces of GOP-sponsored legislation proscribing women's rights were introduced in various state legislatures and in the federal congressional houses. Legislation sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt of Ohio, proposed a mandatory, intrusive, vaginal ultrasound probe as a precondition to abortion. Other proposed legislation aimed to further circumscribe a woman's right to privacy as set forth under Roe v. Wade and/or her access to contraception. The following site details the massive amount of legislation that passed in 2011 as it relates to women's rights. http://www.politicususa.com/the-dirty-thirty-march-2012-edition/ The sheer number of bills introduced on these key constitutional issues is staggering, especially when compared to prior years.

Pundit Rush Limbaugh made horrible comments about law student Sandra Fluke’s thwarted attempts to testify in Congress against the Blunt Amendment. Dozens of advertisers pulled their ads from Limbaugh's radio show. However, KTTH 770 AM Seattle, Washington, owned by the LDS Bonneville International Corporation, supported and even endorsed Limbaugh's right to free speech about the matter. Notice to Rush Limbaugh: calling Sandra Fluke a 'slut,' is libel per se.

Thank you, President Carter, for your brave and timely decision standing up for women's rights. We love you. Now I need to learn how to edit Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A WOMAN'S WORTH

A few weeks ago, at BYU education week, women were packed in the Wilkinson Center auditorium to listen to Professor Susan Easton Black speak about LDS women. I cannot find a print copy of her speech, but Sarah Gambles reported for the BYU Daily Universe on August 18, 2011.[1]   I had to read the article about Professor Black’s talk more than once.  As reported:  

She said “[W]omen stand out in history for three reasons: 1) being the mother of a famous person, 2) being the wife of an important person and 3) race.”

Apparently the professor went on to give examples of her premise, naming Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith’s mother who staunchly defending her son and his religion.  She then named Emma Smith (no mention of her maiden name—Hale) Joseph’s first wife.  Black noted that Joseph called her “smart.”  Her reputation was as a literate woman and that she even led parades in Nauvoo. She also noted that Emma was also the only woman to have a section in the Doctrine and Covenants specifically for her.  D&C §132 reads that she [Emma] shall “be destroyed,” if she will not accept “celestial marriage.”  

Then, incredibly, under the vague category of “race,” Sarah Manning, a black woman who lived with the Smiths, is mentioned.  Though this part was not addressed by Professor Black, after a lifetime of service in the Smith household, Manning was sealed to Joseph Smith in the LDS Temple in 1894 by proxy as his servant for eternity!
The absolute misogyny inherent in this message is enough to make any enlightened person ill. These examples validate women based only on their gender or race, whether as mother, wife or black servant.  Any importance in their lives has been solely derivative; it is only due to their relationship to the founding prophet of Mormonism.  
What a transparent slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of LDS women, especially the polygamist wives of the 19th century.  No mention is made of the outspoken Ann Eliza Webb Young, who, with her attorneys helped to establish divorce rights for these abused women, and who testified in the U.S Congress against the horrendous nature of Mormon polygamy.  Fanny Stenhouse's autobiography Tell it All, reveals that she was more intelligent and a better writer than any of the male Mormon leaders of her time.  Nothing is said of Eliza Snow’s poems or songs, of Mormon Emeline Blanche Woodward Well’s feminist arguments in favor of a woman's individuality instead of being relegated to the status of a pet or a toy for men.  And nothing, of course, about contemporary LDS women writers and scholars, most of whom have been excommunicated for their insights and exposure of this patriarchal nonsense.  

I have never heard a more demeaning speech given by a woman concerning her own gender.  The young LDS women in the audience must be so disheartened, for according to this speech, they have no true role model.  None of these women were appreciated for any individual effort, their remembrance in Mormon history is a matter of happenstance, who they knew, married, or birthed. What a travesty!

Monday, January 16, 2012

THE METHODOLOGY OF MANIPULATION: STATISTICS IN PLAY

Two widely reported statistical analyses regarding Mormons in America have recently been published: the Trinity College Survey, released in December, 2011 and the Pew Report, January, 2012. Incredibly, it seems that media coverage has focused more on the later report than the former. This is especially the case in Utah and most certainly true of LDS owned Deseret News. This blog is an analysis of the methodology behind the conclusions reached in both studies.

Trinity is a well-respected private college located in Hartford Connecticut; with the exception of Yale, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state. Despite its Episcopal roots, years ago Trinity made it a policy not to impose any religious standards on its students. Today the liberal arts college is widely known for the diversity of its student body. Two Trinity sociology professors are the principal investigators of the report. Additionally, Rick Philips and Ryan T. Cragun (non-LDS), both affiliated with the Mormon Social Science Association, contributed to the report.

The Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which despite its title is actually a single entity created by an ultra-conservative family, the Pews. At one time the John Birch Society was a beneficiary of this organization. Per the IRS code, attaining non-profit status in 2004 allows the Trusts to devote a non-substantial part of its resources to lobbying the pubic sector.

The pool of respondents from each group, and therefore each reports' data differ widely. Trinity's potential respondents were any adults in the continental United States; Pew's respondents were adults who had been previously identified as active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus, the conclusions reached by the two studies are not comparable. However, the respective methodologies used to gather the collected data deserve close scrutiny. Importantly, the combined American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) studies constitute the most comprehensive and objective statistical research of the numbers of Mormons in America available to social scientists. In contrast, the Pew study data drew from slightly more than a thousand acknowledged Mormons.

Trinity's report was based on two waves of data collected by ARIS, one in 1990 and the other in 2008. In both waves, respondents were obtained through randomized digit dialed telephone numbers. Pollsters from both waves asked respondents the open-ended question: "What is your religion, if any?" The 1998 survey polled 113,723 Americans and received 1,742 'LDS' or Mormon responses. In 2008 the poll reached 54,461 Americans, 783 of whom self-identified as Mormon. Though a Salt Lake Tribune report (updated Dec. 15, 2011) entitled “Gender Gap Widening among Mormons in Utah, but why?” claims that the Trinity study authors admitted to a margin of error of 4-5%, the Trinity College website estimates a statistical margin of error for the combined studies at less than 0.5%.

The Pew Study lists Luis Lugo, a University of Chicago PhD in political science as director, Cary Funk as researcher and Conrad Hackett as demographer. Additionally, two-thirds of Pew's 'panel of expert advisers' are LDS-affiliated, if not practicing Mormons: Mathew Bowman professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College, Marie Cornwall, BYU sociology professor, Allison Pond of the Deseret News and Teryl Givens, professor of literature/religion at the University of Richmond. It is the Pew study which has a 95% confidence level, i. e., a 4-5% margin of error.

The Pew survey began armed with the landline and cell phone numbers of 91,590 ostensible Mormons—excluding former Mormons. Those whom Pew pollsters contacted were asked a series of questions about Mormonism. While almost half of these (45,710) were non-working numbers: faxes, business/government offices or otherwise "ineligible respondents," another 44,706 were: always busy, had no answer, engaged call-blocking/screening, categorized as "no screener completed," and two contacts had language/competency barriers. That left the Pew people with just 1174 total respondents. Of that number, 155 refused to speak with the pollsters, broke-off the conversation, were never available, or failed to return a message left by Pew. Thus, the total number of interviews upon which the Pew data based its conclusions is just 1019 members of the LDS Church (Pew Report pps. 81-84);697 interviews were considered a fresh sample, and 322 were recontacts from a prior sample. Additionally the data was admittedly skewed geographically to query more frequently from areas deemed to have more LDS residents per capita. However, there is no readily apparent source for these 91,590 numbers—only that they came from a “national sample.” Were they part of LDS Church records? If not, where did they originate? If so, given the abysmal response rate, these records seem to be extremely dated.

What were the results of Pew's study? With the caveat that more than half of respondents reside in the Mountain-west and a third in Utah, Pew's study concludes that Mormons were generally happy with their lives/communities, and had families where the husband supported a stay-at-home wife/mother. Two-thirds believe Mormons are not accepted in mainstream society, but also believe that they are becoming more accepted. Most are Republican and are unhappy with the federal government. Mormons were divided on whether the U.S. was ready for a Mormon president, men feeling more positive than the women surveyed. 88% of Pew respondents were Caucasian. All stressed the importance of family. Almost all described living a devout lifestyle and characterized their theology as Christian. The amount of formal education and religious orthodoxy showed a positive correlation. (Note: Utah has several so-called universities, most with LDS institutes of higher learning attached, as well as LDS-owned Brigham Young University. However, historically at least, Utah high school graduates are more likely to enroll in a local/Utah university than be accepted or even seek acceptance out of state. Yet it is only the University of Utah that has any world standing, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities).

More than 90% of Pew respondents accept the Book of Mormon as the literal word of God, written by ancient American prophets and Joseph Smith as a prophet. But even in this study, 23% of the one-thousand plus queried could not say that they believed “whole-heartedly” in all the teachings of the LDS Church. [Emphasis added] Other conclusions addressed LDS income levels, both inside and outside Utah vis a vis the remainder of the U.S.

ARIS/Trinity was able to reach a much broader database than Pew by a huge factor. As such, the margin of error is much less than in the Pew Study. At the beginning of 1990 the LDS Church claimed 1.3 million Utah Mormons or 77.2% of the people in the state of Utah. At the end of 2008 official LDS numbers posted 1.8 million members in Utah or 68% of Utah's population. During this 18 year time period the church also claims to have increased its numbers from 4,175,000 to 5,974,041 and likewise its percentage of the U.S. Population from 1.7% to 2%.

Trinity's statistics tell a much different story. According to the Trinity Study, the U.S. Mormons in 1990 numbered 2,487,000 and 3,158,000 in 2008, making the percentage of adult LDS a constant at just 1.4% of the population. Children were not queried; however, the authors explain that this would not significantly alter their findings because “...research shows that Mormon birthrates are declining...” Trinity also reports that the discrepancy can be accounted for by “...large numbers of ex-Mormons who continue to be counted by the organization.” According to this report, though Mormonism appears to attract a large number of converts, it also has nearly as large a number of apostates (just as many 'out-switchers' as 'in-switchers') and thus the over-all per capita number of LDS is not gaining, but is “treading water.” Additionally, LDS “market share” in Utah fell from 69% in 1990 to 57% in 2008.

Other interesting conclusions drawn by ARIS/Trinity are that Utah Mormons are the only U. S. religious group that maintain a majority of the population in any state. Apostasy rates are rising among young men in Utah, leading to a gender imbalance with women outnumbering men 3 to 2. Utah Mormons have a statistically larger household than Mormons elsewhere by .5 persons and Mormons are twice as likely to be Republicans as are other Americans. Like the Pew study, this study also confirmed a rising income rate among Utah Mormons.

These studies raise questions for me. Does the LDS Church count baptisms for the dead in their annual statistics of new converts? If one looks at the LDS website the number of baptism per year (excluding children born of record) are counted given. Could this number which is added to the number of children born into LDS families include those who Mormons have baptized posthumously. Over the past decade there have been articles of LDS missionaries visiting graveyards, for example, East Granby Center Cemetery in Connecticut, to record data from tombstones. For years it has been well-known that Church representatives have researched obituaries, real estate, tax and other public records to forward on to the Church genealogy department. A Holocaust victims group’s disapproval of Mormons baptizing Jews was well-publicized. More recently, an April 5, 2008 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, asks episcopal conferences to direct all bishops to keep the LDS from microfilming and digitizing information contained in parish registers“...so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Could this be the true source of Mormonism's “growing numbers and the reason for the discrepancy between the Trinity/ARIS numbers and those claimed in annual general conferences by the LDS Church?” This is pure speculation on my part, but it would be interesting to know the answers to whether baptisms for the dead are included in the LDS annual statistical increase of new convert baptisms, which historically have not included children of record born in that year.

The Trinity survey claims that social scientists are more apt to rely on self-reported numbers than other ways of verifying numbers which could be affected by public relations interests. One thing is clear: Mormons are told and taught that they are more numerous and widespread than good research reveals. Trinity further posits: “Organizations, however, sometimes have an incentive for overstating their membership.” Could it be that the LDS Church has such an incentive?