Inhuman Swill : Civil Liberties
            

After years of work, The Accidental Terrorist, my memoir of Mormon missionary life, is out today! And what better way to celebrate than to mail a letter that, honestly, is years if not decades overdue...


10 November 2015

Member Records Division, LDS Church
50 E North Temple Rm 1372
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-5310

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Is there a religious equivalent to the term "civil disobedience"? As in, a term for defying one's church leaders when you find their edicts unjust or immoral? Something more warm-sounding than "heresy"?

Oh, well. For lack of a better term, I'd like to challenge a Mormon bishop to commit heresy.


Before I get to that, I'd like to talk about the Boy Scouts for a minute. I was very happy last month that the LDS Church decided not to sever its ties with the Boy Scouts of America over the issue of permitting troop sponsors to allow openly gay men to serve as Scoutmasters.

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As I was working through the very final set of revisions on The Accidental Terrorist, I had to hunt down the original source of a well-known Joseph Smith quote on the topic of the accuracy of the Bible. I found what I was looking for in his History of the Church, but I also found a nearby paragraph that was equally interesting.

Joseph was obviously frustrated by the persecution he and his people had been suffering, and was perhaps even more frustrated by his inability to get protection or redress from the courts, or even much sympathy from President Martin Van Buren in a face-to-face 1840 meeting. In Volume VI, Chapter 3 of History of the Church, he wrote:

The Constitution should contain a provision that every officer of the Government who should neglect or refuse to extend the protection guaranteed in the Constitution should be subject to capital punishment; and then the president of the United States would not say, "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you," a governor issue exterminating orders, or judges say, "The men ought to have the protection of law, but it won't please the mob; the men must die, anyhow, to satisfy the clamor of the rabble; they must be hung, or Missouri be damned to all eternity." Executive writs could be issued when they ought to be, and not be made instruments of cruelty to oppress the innocent, and persecute men whose religion is unpopular.

Think about that for a minute. The death penalty for failing to protect everyone's rights under the Constitution. Can you imagine the irony had Joseph's fancy become an actual amendment? Can you imagine the implications for the attorney generals and county clerks who refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples? Can you imagine the implications for district attorneys who failed to indict white officers for shooting black civilians?

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To Young Men Only by Boyd K. Packer
A handful of links have been accumulating in my to-be-posted queue over the past couple of weeks. Time to toss them out there for consumption.


First, longtime Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer died last Friday at the age of 90. To many of us who grew up in the church, Packer was the "scary apostle," the one most likely to give talks on uncomfortable topics, and to do it in frightening ways. He was the closest thing we had to an old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone preacher.

Packer will long be remembered for his influential talk (later published as a pamphlet) called "To Young Men Only," which could have been subtitled "Why You Should Feel Like an Evil Dirty Shit If You're Weak Enough to Masturbate." And this is the same talk in which he unconvincingly pretends not to endorse violence against men who make passes at other men. "I am not recommending that course to you," he says with a broad wink, "but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself."

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The police were inspecting bags at the 30th Avenue subway station in Astoria this morning. Little table set up off to one side of the turnstiles. Maybe this makes some people feel safe (particularly people who don't ride the subways), but it only makes me feel as if there's danger near, and as if I myself am under suspicion. And I resent feeling that way in America when I'm just going about my own business and doing nothing wrong.

As I walked past the makeshift inspection station, heart in my throat, trying to look casual, I rehearsed in my mind what I would say if the police asked to look in my somewhat lumpy shoulder bag (which, by the way, contains nothing more incendiary than books, magazines, and a bunch of mix discs from last night's CDMOM):

"I'm sorry, officer, but I'd rather walk."

I didn't have to, but I don't like the fact that I might have had to. And for what? For the sake of discouraging some theoretical bomb-carrying terrorist from boarding the train at 30th Avenue and forcing him to walk two blocks to Broadway instead? Ooooh, I feel so much safer now, and it only cost a few pennies in civil liberties.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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