Vol. 19 No. 10 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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Steve Benson Accepts "Emperor Has No Garments" Award
Latter-Day Saint to Latter-Day Ain't
Photos by Brent Nicastro
Pulitizer-Prize winning daily editorial cartoonist Steve Benson received the Foundation's "Emperor Has No Clothes" award at the 25th annual FFRF convention in San Diego on Nov. 23, 2002. The award is designated for public figures who take on the fabled role of the little child in the the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and "tell it like it is"--about religion.
Steve and his wife Mary Ann Christensen, in a highly publicized action, left the Mormon Church in 1994, when his grandfather, Ezra Taft Benson, was still the Mormon president. Since then, Steve has become an outspoken freethinker. He has teamed up with Foundation musician Dan Barker to present a freethought look at religion in the news in their unique music and cartoon comedy revue, "Tunes 'n 'Toons."
By Steve Benson
Thanks for this wonderful "Emperor Has No Garments" statue.
Dan Barker presenting Steve's statuette
During her presentation last night, Julia Sweeney talked about how meeting Mormon missionaries helped drive her to atheism. You know, Julia, it had the same effect on me.
I was a Mormon missionary and, like Julia said, we used to go door-to-door, two-by-two, bringing God's message to the unsuspecting people of Japan. As Julia said, in doing so, we announced that we were, indeed, messengers from God.
I remember one evening in Okinawa, when my missionary buddy and I were out working the neighborhoods. I was brand new at this--what they called in the business a "greenie." It was my turn to do what was known as "the door approach."
We stood at the entrance of one home and, as is the custom in Japan, I declared our presence by loudly yelling out in Japanese, "Please excuse us!"
A tiny Japanese woman slid open her front door and seeing two ugly Americans, immediately fell to her knees and bowed her face to the floor in the traditional Japanese greeting.
It was then my turn to speak. I had memorized my door approach but didn't understand a word I was saying. (Kind of like speaking in tongues without knowing what tongue.)
I told the woman in Japanese, "We are messengers from God." We looked a little strange, so---who knows?--maybe she believed us.
I then said, "We have brought a special message for you and your family." Then I asked, "Is your husband home?"
She replied, "No, he isn't."
I said, "We'll be back in this neighborhood next week and would like to drop by when he's here."
At that point, the Japanese woman started to laugh, covering her mouth with her hand and "tee-hee-heeing." The Japanese are a very polite people, so for her to start laughing in my face was highly unusual. In fact, she kept on laughing and wouldn't stop, so I just gave up and we left the porch.
Walking down the street, I turned to my missionary buddy and said, "What happened?"
He said, "Well, you told her we were messengers from God and that we were bringing a special message to her and her family. You asked if her husband was home.
"When she said 'no,' you said, 'We'll be back in this galaxy next week.' "
Steve's Emperor award, Mormon version
Mormons do indeed live on another planet. In fact, they actually believe God lives on a planet called "Kolob" with his innumerable polygamous wives--and that if Mormons do what he tells them, after they die they, too, can become gods just like him, create lots of worlds, make millions of spirit babies and be Masters of the Universe.
Which leads me to this "Emperor Has No Garments" award.
When Mary Ann and I left Mormonism, we pointed out that the Mormon emperor had no clothes.
But he still has garments. ("Garments" is the term for Mormonism's magical underwear.) I don't think that those two nice Mormon boys told Julia about this, so--what the hell--I will.
I'm sure you've seen Mormon temples out in the neighborhoods where you live--those big, tall edifices with an angel statue perched on top, costing millions of dollars, and that no one is allowed to enter, unless you're a good Mormon who has first agreed to pay the admission fee: 10% of your gross income for the rest of your life.
Devout Mormons go through a secret ceremony in their temples called the "endowment." During the endowment, they are each given a special set of underwear and told to wear it night and day for the rest of their lives, except when they take a bath, have sex or play sports.
Workers in the temple ceremony tell Mormons during their initiation that this "garment of the Holy Priesthood," as it is called, will be "a shield and a protection" to them against both physical harm and the devil.
Mormons are also told never to reveal what I'm telling you to anyone outside the temple, or they'll be in big trouble with God. That means I only have a few minutes left to educate you about this before he strikes me dead.
The fact that I am sharing these things with you would be considered highly offensive by devout Mormons and even others. But the reasons for talking about them here are well expressed by Richard Packham, a former Mormon and retired attorney:
"The rituals in the temples--especially the 'endowment'--are considered so sacred that Mormons are forbidden to discuss them outside the temple itself.
"Even non-Mormons sometimes object to articles [giving an 'overview of the nature of Mormon temples and their rituals'] since they reveal Mormons' religious secrets to a curious--and perhaps unworthy and even mocking--world.
"Many people, not only devout Mormons, feel that it is wrong to do this. Usually two reasons for the objection are given: 1) things that anyone holds sacred should not be profaned, mocked or ridiculed by anyone else, even by one who does not consider them sacred; and 2) the person who is revealing the secrets usually is someone who obtained the secrets only by swearing an oath of secrecy, and thus is breaking an oath.
"As to the first objection, it seems pointless to refuse to discuss objectively and openly any subject just because someone else feels that subject is taboo. I doubt that many Mormons would refuse to discuss the sacred initiation rituals of some primitive African tribe or some Satanist cult on the grounds that the tribe or cult considered those rites sacred.
"As to the second objection, the validity and binding nature of an oath or any promise depends, both legally and morally, upon the validity of the mutually accepted facts underlying the demanding and the giving of the oath.
"The oath of secrecy given by a Mormon in the temple is based on the assurance and sacred promise that the oath is required by God, and that the secrets one will receive are given by God. If that assurance is in fact false, then one cannot be bound either legally or morally by any such oath, since it was obtained by a lie."1
The secret Mormon temple ceremony was copied from the Masons in the 1840s by Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, who himself was a Freemason.
Sewn into the Mormon garment, over the right and left breasts, are the Masonic symbols of the square and compass, signifying exactness and honor in following God.
Over the right knee of the garment is sewn another mark, reminding the underwear wearer that every knee shall bow to God. There is also one sewn over the navel, indicating that God is the ultimate source of nutrition--so you'd better not put a belly button ring there.
Mary Ann and I have made a miniature set of the Mormon underwear (kind of like a paper doll cut-out) and stuck them on this little Emperor guy, if you'd like to come up afterwards and take a closer look.
When Mormons are given their new underwear, they're also given a new name that they will eventually be known by in heaven. Mary Ann's was "Deborah." Mine was "Ezekiel." (My pet macaw's name is also "Ezekiel.")
Armed with their new name and new underwear, Mormons then go through a temple ceremony in which they learn secret handshakes and passwords that they believe will be required for admission into God's presence in the Mormon heaven.
When Mary Ann and I went through our temple endowment back in 1977, the ritual included oaths of secrecy in which we all simulated taking our own lives by slitting our throats from ear to ear and being disemboweled--representing the punishments we would incur if we ever dared reveal the secret handshakes and passwords. (And you thought Mormons were just good family folk who spent all that time in their temples baking cookies to bring over to their neighbors.)
The secret Mormon handshake. Steve says that if you shake hands like this with a Mormon missionary at your door, you will scare him off forever.
Mormons take other secret oaths in the temple, including promising to give everything they have--including their lives--if demanded, to the Mormon Church.
They also promise to obey their church leaders and to never say bad things about them (in temple jargon, to not engage in "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed").
In the temple, Mormons are also secretly married to each other "for time and all eternity."
Since only worthy Mormons can enter the temple, non-Mormons are barred from attending the wedding ceremony, even if you're the parents of the bride and groom.
As a tract distributed to visitors at the recent opening of the Mormon temple in Bedford, Oregon (before it was closed to the public), explains:
"No music, no poetry, no photographs are allowed during the short wedding ceremony in the temple. (Although the bride may wear a traditional white wedding gown, she must wear the ritual temple clothing over the gown)."
The tract also mentions another little-known fact that goes on behind the walls of the Mormon temple:
"Most Mormons attending the temple rituals are doing so as proxies for the dead, in order to qualify the dead for admission to the Mormon heaven.
"Probably most of your ancestors have already been posthumously inducted into the Mormon Church. The Mormons have done this for millions of dead people (this is the primary purpose of their extensive genealogical research), including deceased presidents of the U.S., many Catholic saints, and even Adolf Hitler."2
So, there you have it.
I'd better stop now, before the Mormons slit my throat.
Thank you very much.
1. Richard Packham, "Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals," http://home.teleport.com/packham/temples.htm
2. "Mormon Temples: Facts that the Mormons probably don't want you to know, by a former Mormon," home.teleport.com/packham/temples2.htm
December 2002 Excerpts