Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guilt By Association

Today the superlative festooned City Creek Center (CCC) shopping mall opens in downtown Salt Lake City. Just across from the Salt Lake Temple the CCC has been called “The New Mormon Mall”. This is usually made to underscore the point that it will be closed on Sundays to assist people in observing the Sabbath. However, there are other reasons to consider this “The New Mormon Mall”.

A couple weeks ago a friend posted a screenshot from the university of Utah’s employment bulletin-board-like service. Since I am not a student or faculty of the UofU I don’t have access, but she graciously sent me copies of screenshots from the job board for me to include here:

The top qualification, before any degrees or experience, is:
"Current Temple Recommend Holder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"

I described somewhat in an earlier post the relationship between PRI (Property Reserve Inc) and City Creek Reserve Inc (CCRI). The CCC represents 1.5 billion of the CCRI’s downtown activity. The CCRI is a for-profit real estate company wholly-owned by the LDS church. I’m sure that there is some interesting tax-wrangling to be considered when calculating the profit-margin of competitive LDS-Church business ventures.

The track record of the LDS church in private business ventures has historically been dismal. What if the CCC is the start of a string of successes? What if they start reaping major profits? What if they opened a big box store that out competed Home Depot, or WalMart? How would that change the nature of America? What if the LDS church became defense contractors?

Actually, the LDS church is a defense contractor. BYU has had many contracts with the Department of Defense. Although BYU is apparently not entirely Mormon (according to numbers I’ve seen almost 2% of the faculty are not active Mormons) the Mormon faculty have been required to have an annual “checking-up” letter from their bishops on file in addition to their temple recommend. The “checking-up” was designed to monitor all activities of faculty for appropriateness. At least two professors have run afoul of the “checking-up” process because of their “feminism”; at least one of those was fired outright.

One BYU physics professor, Steven E. Jones, was placed on paid leave because of his 911-truther craziness. I think they should have called that action a “911-truther sabbatical”; it certainly freed up enough of Jones’s time for him to pen his detailed investigations into how pre-placed explosives really brought down the twin towers.

Religious organizations that compete in the private sector have more than simple tax-exemption to use as a competitive edge. The LDS church can actually demand 10% of the payroll from its employees returned to their parent company. Tithing is part of the eligibility requirements for the Bishop’s recommend openly required for employment with the church-held secular activities.

Some of my non-Utahan readers will not have an accurate grasp of what a “Temple Recommend” is. In many cases membership in a church is viewed as a private affair. Membership might be disclosed by subtle clues, a special phrase, a uniquely ornate cross, a secret handshake. In the Mormon church active membership is proven via the use of a serial-numbered and officially-authorized identity card. At the front desk of each temple is a receptionist with a computer terminal who checks the authenticity and status of the ID number before the individual can enter the temple by comparing it with a secret database of information. I have been told there is also a photograph that comes up on the terminal to verify ownership of the recommend.

In order to be issued the temple recommend the individual seeking it must answer a series of questions. The answers to each question can be investigated for truthfulness by the church, and it is common for third-party accusations to instigate those investigations. Some of the questions are (according to sources of course since I do not wish to pursue first-hand knowledge):

  • 1.   Do you believe in God, the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost; and do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?
  • 2.   Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
  • 4.   Do you live the law of chastity?
  • 6.   Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?
  • 9.   Are you a full-tithe payer?
  • 10. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?
  • 12. If you have received your temple endowment --
    • (a) Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple?
    • (b) Do you wear the authorized garments both day and night?
I left out a few questions about divorce and general goodness that might be of interest to some, but which were not of significant worth to this essay.   I also left on a couple with no worth to this essay, but which I think are interesting nonetheless. 

The “Word of Wisdom” generally means no drinking of coffee, tea or alcohol. The “authorized garments” are often called “the magic Mormon Underwear”.

The confusion amongst non-Mormon’s about what the temple recommend is can be quite astounding. From one publication written for non-Mormons I pulled the following quote concerning the state’s welfare system “Latter-day Saints have many regional bishop storehouses where members, and non-members alike, can receive emergency food and supplies by merely presenting a bishop’s recommend.”. The bishop’s recommend is synonymous with the temple recommend. There are no non-Mormons with an authentic temple recommend.

I, of course, particularly like question 6. Some might read this to mean that simply by reading this very blog you could run afoul of the temple recommend requirements. If a neighbor searched your bookmarks and found this blog amongst them you could be barred from entry into the temple. You could also lose your job.

Although most temple-recommend jobs do not currently require annual security checks like the BYU faculty positions they are subject to spot-checks if any questions arise. According to Utah law this practice is legal.

Drew Call served a mission in Massachusetts in the late 90s. Although Mitt Romney was in Massachusetts at the time I have seen no indication that the two ever bumped into one another at any of the social gatherings hosted by that state’s small Mormon community. I have a feeling that Drew would have remembered; one reason for that is that Drew had discovered that he was sexually attracted to other men.

Drew married a woman shortly after he returned from his mission (at age 24) because, in his own words: “I thought getting married would fix it and this tendency to like men would go away, but it never did,”. Despite “not being attracted to women” drew fathered two children with his blushing bride, but long before his offspring hit their two-digit age marks Drew divorced her and began dating men. Drew was outed by a third-party in 2010, soon lost his temple recommend, and on March 4th 2011 lost his job as a supervisor at the church’s printing office.

The reason given for Drew, a decade-long employee of the LDS church, losing his secular position at the printing office was that he had lost his temple recommend.

It is also interesting to note that the church engaged in some painful spiritual contortion to deny Drew’s temple recommend not because he was gay, but because he had gay friends. Drew made a recording of the phone call where they informed him of the decision to revoke his temple worthiness, and they are clear that it is not because he was gay. This is because the LDS church officially encourages gays to be members; as long as they don’t have sex outside of marriage, and don’t try that gay marriage stuff.

The year before Drew’s divorce the LDS church openly supported a Salt Lake City employment nondiscrimination measure which would have protected Drew’s job if he worked for almost anyone but the LDS church. The measure had a specific religious exemption. That exemption has been upheld in Drew’s case.

If the LDS church continues to exert influence by competing in the private sector their thought police will be granted increased leverage. You may not work for the LDS church but your friends or family might, your friends family might, the families of your elected officials might.


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