Recent Change to the Political Neutrality Statement

Over at BCC, John Hatch points out an important new change to the church’s political neutrality statement. The statement has an additional new sentence, and it reads:

In addition, members who hold public office should not give the impression they represent the Church as they work for solutions to social problems.

John gives a detailed breakdown of some of the recent incidents of church legislators invoking church doctrine to justify legislation, and of the numerous statements issued by the church over the last year repudiating those legislators.

This change drives home the point the the political neutrality statement is serious. The church doesn’t support Bush. It doesn’t support Kerry. It is neither Democrat nor Republican. And except in certain specific areas where the church has taken an explicit position (such as the ERA, or possibly the gay marriage amendment), it is probably wrong to suggest that church doctrine requires one to follow a particular political ideology. One need not be a good Republican, or Democrat, or Libertarian, or whatever, to be a good church member. Is that so hard to understand?

83 comments for “Recent Change to the Political Neutrality Statement

  1. August 25, 2004 at 5:24 pm


    That really needed to be said! Needless to say, I agree whole-heartedly!

  2. Matt Evans
    August 25, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    The church does not take political positions as an entity. For that reason they object when someone wrongly claims to act on the church’s behalf.

    As for church doctrine, however, some political ideologies are more compatible with church doctrine than others. The apostles and prophets specifically condemned communism and it’s ideology many times, even at General Conference. It is my understanding that the church never officially opposed communism as an entity, and that all of the denouncements resulted simply by applying gospel principles to political questions.

    Members should apply those same gospel principles to today’s political issues.

  3. Matt Evans
    August 25, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    I should clarify my penultimate sentence. The First Presidency condemned communism and said no faithful member could support it. Their condemnation did not come from direct revelation, however, but by judging the communist politcal ideology by the light of gospel principles.

  4. Chad Too
    August 25, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    I just bristle every time I hear of a candidate and someone whispers an aside to me: “You know, he’s a member of the Church.” Why in the world would someone assume that this info alone is sufficient to earn my vote?

    Tell me of your fiscal policies. What about defense? the environment? education? taxes?

    Church membership is no guarantee that a person is the best candidate for the position.

    Nor is it necessarily a good start.

  5. Matt Evans
    August 25, 2004 at 6:20 pm

    Chad, I agree that just because someone’s a member of the church doesn’t guarantee they’re a good candidate or politician. But if you’re trying to follow Mosiah’s counsel and find just men who will judge righteous judgment, the LDS church should be a good place to start.

  6. Chad too
    August 25, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Hence my use of the word “necessarily.” There are just too many people who vote the ward list rather than really considering the person. I’d rather vote for a non-member who understands the law and politics and represents his/her constituents well than an LDS one who can’t walk to the Capitol restroom with first checking what the Church Handbook of Instructions has to say about it.

    And don’t get me started on the two good members of the Church who resigned from the Utah House last year after getting caught soliciting prostitutes. Membership alone does not necessarily earn one political support in my book.

  7. Paul Mouritsen
    August 25, 2004 at 6:37 pm

    I think the leaders of the church recognize the danger of being too closely identified with one political party. As Elder Marlin Jensen said a few years back in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, “It’s not in our best interest to be known as a one-party church.” There are a number of good reasons why we should work with both parties.

    First, both parties should have to court the Mormon vote. If our vote can always be counted on, our interests will be ignored.

    Second, key decisions are made in party caucuses and meetings. Members of the church need to be represented in both parties at all levels.

    Third, the appearance of block voting by Mormons arouses jealousy and resentment.

  8. Kristine
    August 25, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    Matt, as I’m sure you know, the Brethren (including the FP) were deeply divided about how Communism ought to be opposed. The European Saints were not expected to oppose socialist movements or parties in their countries. President Benson’s vocal opposition to Communism and his support of the John Birch Society were the source of a great deal of consternation for the First Presidency. So while some ideological positions–broadly defined–may be incompatible with belief in the gospel, I would say there are fewer specific political positions that are required by the gospel. The Church’s relatively infrequent endorsement of specific legislation would seem to support this view.

  9. John H
    August 25, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    Not only were President Benson’s statements against communism a source of frustration at times for the First Presidency, some of his statements were edited out of the published versions of General Conference.

    I personally don’t see how Church leaders’ opposition to communism in the 50s and 60s can be seen as anything more than evidence that the Brethren are not immune from cultural paranoia. President Benson’s statements suggesting the civil rights movement was a communist conspiracy are evidence of that.

  10. Frank McIntyre
    August 25, 2004 at 7:35 pm

    “I personally don’t see how Church leaders’ opposition to communism in the 50s and 60s can be seen as anything more than evidence that the Brethren are not immune from cultural paranoia.”


    If I’m wrong, I’m sure you’ll tell me. But I’m guessing you probably don’t have much vested in the idea of a steady flow of revelation to modern prophets. So I suppose that it is not surprising that you take the view quoted above. Perhaps (though I certainly don’t know) you don’t think communism or socialism is so bad, and so you prefer believing that those that opposed communism strongly were not inspired.

    It may be the case that communism really was a nasty business that the Brethren rightly felt was antithetical to the gospel. Like Peter and Paul, the leaders may have disagreed on how best to manage the problem— whether by silence or by active opposition. You seem to be up on the history, is there reason to believe that such was the case?

  11. Matt Evans
    August 25, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    The passionate excoriation of communism I mentioned was issued by the First Presidency in 1936:

    “The Church does not interfere, and has no intention of trying to interfere, with the fullest and freest exercise of the political franchise of its members . . . To our church members we say: Communism is not the United Order, and bears only the most superficial resemblance thereto; Communism is based upon intolerance and force, the United Order upon love and freedom of conscience and action; Communism involves forceful despoliation and confiscation, the United Order voluntary consecration and sacrifice . . . Communism being thus hostile to loyal American citizenship and incompatible with true Church membership, of necessity no loyal American citizen and no faithful Church member can be a Communist. We call upon all Church members to completely eschew Communism . . .”

    Heber J. Grant
    J. Reuben Clark
    David O. McKay

    Ezra Taft Benson was ordained an apostle seven years later, in 1943.

  12. Kristine
    August 25, 2004 at 8:07 pm

    John and Frank, I think you can both be right. I think it’s possible both that opposing Communism was wise/inspired/based on gospel principles *and* that some of the Brethren, or at least one of them–ETB–was seriously misled by cultural paranoia and went well beyond any inspired means in his personal opposition.

  13. John H
    August 25, 2004 at 8:09 pm

    Frank, you’d be right that I don’t really believe in a steady flow of revelation. I do believe in, as President Hinckley has suggested is the case, brief flashes of insight or inspiration from time to time. But for the most part I think the Brethren are very good men trying to do their best with what they have. Because they are good men guided by good principles, I usually think they do a great job.

    But with this specific instance, I just think they were led by their own biases and not by revelation. Certainly none of them claimed a revelation in regards to communism. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have one, but I’m skeptical.

    Personally, I’m no fan of communism or even socialism, but I do think the “red scare” was a gigantic waste of time. Imagine all the energy, money, and resources spent fighting communism. In the end, it turns out that Russians weren’t all that different from us – good people who just wanted to raise their families and live their lives. Yet, despite rational people working on both sides (see the great film The Fog of War on this point), we came shockingly close to obliterating each other. All because a few people over here believed, without any evidence or reason, that communism was inherently evil, and a few people over there, again without evidence or reason, believed we were inherently evil.

    I also can’t help but wonder how much anti-communist sentiment would have existed in the Church if it weren’t for the dominant personality of uber-conservative Ezra Taft Benson. I once counted, and in 36 conference addresses over 18 years, he talked about or condemned communism 27 times. That strikes me as pretty excessive.

  14. Kaimi
    August 25, 2004 at 8:19 pm


    That raises some interesting questions. First, what is the communism they were speaking of? It was probably Marxist-Leninist communism, which is in many significant ways quite different than original Marxism.

    After all, a number of the tenets in the communist manifesto — such as the abolition of child labor, establishment of free education for all children, and creation of a graduated income tax — have been adopted by the U.S. (and most other countries) with rather uncontroversially.

  15. Kristine
    August 25, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    Matt, I’m aware of that statement, and its timing–I was merely trying to point out that you can’t use opposition to Communism as a clear example of how gospel principles may dictate a political position, since the interpretation of the FP’s statement, even by one of the 12, turned out to be a little complicated.

  16. Jack
    August 25, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    A 50 yr stint as an apostle with access to the gifts pertaining to that office and somehow he never heard that little bird chirping in his ear telling him that he was WAY! WAY! off.

  17. Mike
    August 25, 2004 at 9:28 pm

    Well, I think that President Bensen’s comments relating to politics were quite few and far between when compared to those of Elder Bensen, so maybe tose 50 years did do something.

    Oh, and this is rather strange- but earlier while reading this thread I thought- why can’t I meet someone like Kristine
    which was promptly followed by a very clear impression that closely echoed the statement aimed at unmarried return missionaries and attributed to a number of different Church leaders
    “you’re not going to find a Kristine Haglund, but even if you did she probably wouldn’t be interested in you anyway”

    I found it funny. hopefully Kristine does not find it kreepy (or have my ip range banned from reading T&S)

  18. Matt Evans
    August 25, 2004 at 10:33 pm

    John H,

    David O. McKay and J. Reuben Clark made an excessive number of anti-communist statements, too, and they started saying them as apostles long before Benson. And why do you hesitate to call governments that build prison walls around its citizens, or send its political opponents to the gulag, evil?


    The apostles opposed communism for its call for violent revolution, its suppression of religion, its forced redistribution of wealth, its interference within families, and its atheism. Communists keep telling me these are not necessary elements for communism, though their justifications for every communist country demonstrating most of them are unconvincing.


    It seems to me that the First Presidency’s strong statement against communism shows that gospel principles have political ramifications. And I don’t see how that point is mitigated by Benson’s belief that communists were involved in the civil rights movement. The existence or non-existence of a communist conspiracy in the civil rights movement is a question of fact that he could not have derived from either his or the First Presidency’s anti-communist position.

    To frame it another way, suppose the First Presidency issues a strong anti-terrorism statement showing that terrorism is incompatible with gospel principles. Later, an apostle mistakenly believes that an international charitable organization is being used as a front group for terrorists. I don’t see how this apostle’s error (terrorists weren’t actually using the charity as a front) can be traced back to the apostle’s interpretation of the First Presidency’s anti-terrorism statement. Nor does his factual error cast doubt on the statement’s conclusion that gospel principles are incompatible with terrorism.

  19. Kaimi
    August 25, 2004 at 10:46 pm


    Well, I can’t speak for Kristine (you do know that she’s unavailable, right?), but I didn’t think it’s a particularly offensive comment. You think enough of her that you hope to run into someone like her; that’s a compliment. And I don’t think it’s bannable — if being a Kristine fan were a bannable offense, we’d all be banned by now.

  20. Jack
    August 25, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    Mike: Tracking backward along your line of reasoning, Benson would have been a regular McCarthy when he was a lowly stake president. Right?

  21. Kristine
    August 25, 2004 at 11:42 pm

    Aw, shucks, guys–I’m blushing.

    Matt, why can’t you be more like Kaimi and Mike? :)

  22. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 2:28 am

    “David O. McKay and J. Reuben Clark made an excessive number of anti-communist statements, too, and they started saying them as apostles long before Benson. And why do you hesitate to call governments that build prison walls around its citizens, or send its political opponents to the gulag, evil?”

    Matt, I have no problem calling those actions evil. They were evil. But how much does that have to do with Communism as a political ideology vs. a particular government? Since the U.S. interred Japanese-Americans during WWII, are we going to start condemning capitalism or calling it evil? How about a government that lies to its people for years about the Gulf of Tonkin, the Pentagon Papers, and so on? Would such a government be considered evil?

    Don’t get me wrong, Matt. I actually suspect if we sat down and shared our political beliefs, we’d probably be pretty similar. I’m just too busy at the moment reacting to what I think are pretty extreme statements about Communism. For the record, I think Communism is a pretty flawed ideology (but so is Capitalism). But I just hesitate to call very many things inherently evil. Communism *can* be evil (and we’ve seen it), but so can Capitalism, and I’d argue we’re seeing that right now.

    But your statement about governments who do evil things only proves my point – when we’re talking about “Communism”, we’re really talking about the former Soviet Union, China, and to a lesser extent, the North Vietnamese. We’re not talking about an ideology. And I just think it would help if we realized that Church leaders were putting a face to what they knew as Communism, and that face was Russia. So that’s what they were responding to. And once again, no one has offered any kind of evidence that any of these Church leaders claimed to be acting through inspiration or revelation.

    I also think it’s worth asking: Why were some Church leaders so concerned about Communism and so willing to denounce it, yet not *one* Church leader, let alone the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve as a body, bothered to denounce Nazism or Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945? Surely if they were inspired to criticize Communism as much as they did, God would be all over them to rake Adolf Hitler, of all people, over the coals.

    Because I’m long-winded, I’ll answer my own question. It’s because American culture didn’t have that big of a problem with Hitler until the war began. We knew how the Nazis treated the Jews, but we were sufficiently racist enough to not care all that much (J. Reuben Clark in particular loathed Jews). There simply wasn’t the hysteria in America over Nazism that there later was over Communism. So does it really come as a shock that Church leaders weren’t attacking Nazism, but were sharply critical of communism? Again, I find that the cultural influence over the Brethren is the best explanation for their comments, not assumptions of inspiration that they never claimed nor can ever be proven.

  23. Matt Evans
    August 26, 2004 at 10:41 am


    The apostles singled-out communism because it was an evangelical ideology that was making inroads among Mormons and Americans. Had fascism won similar success for the hearts of church members, it would have been condemned too. In the same way, the church spends more time condemning the consumption of alcohol than the consumption of chlorine bleach, not because chlorine bleach isn’t dangerous or even because it’s less dangerous than alcohol, but because Mormons haven’t demonstrated a need for counsel against bleach consumption. They’ve abstained from bleach, like fascism, by themselves.

    I don’t think it’s right to blame the apostles’ strong stance against communism on their conflating communist ideology with its most prominent practitioners. Even without the shadow Russia and China cast over communism, there’s no reason to believe the apostles would have otherwised welcomed an ideology that calls people to unite in violent revolution to overthrow the social order, including the churches. To the contrary, I suspect the church will strongly condemn each and every ideology that (1) calls for its overthrow and (2) attracts Mormon adherents and sympathizers.

  24. obi-wan
    August 26, 2004 at 11:12 am

    “The apostles singled-out communism because it was an evangelical ideology that was making inroads among Mormons and Americans. Had fascism won similar success for the hearts of church members, it would have been condemned too.”

    This claim is demonstrably wrong. There was a great deal of sympathy for fascism in this country, including an American Nazi party, prior to the entry of the U.S. into the war. (A major reason why we waited so long, and very nearly didn’t enter the European war.) Every indication is that fascism had as much, probably far more, appeal to members of the Church than did communism.

  25. Matt Evans
    August 26, 2004 at 11:25 am


    It’s laughable to suggest that Americans’ reluctance to enter the war in Europe had anything to do with the strength of the American Nazi party or a general sympathy for Nazism. I supported the war in Iraq, but at least I realized that those who opposed the war or supported it reluctantly weren’t doing so because they sympathized with the Baathists.

    Is there any evidence that Mormon members joined the American Nazi party? If they did, I’d be interested in seeing it’s platform.

  26. Nathan Tolman
    August 26, 2004 at 11:42 am

    obi-wan: some proof is in order, perhaps the numbers of the American Nazi party in Utah.

    Matt stated:

    “there’s no reason to believe the apostles would have otherwised welcomed an ideology that calls people to unite in violent revolution to overthrow the social order, including the churches.”

    Religion is the opiate of the masses comes to mind.

    Perhaps we should conceder the reaction to Communism as a result of our earlier experiences with Fascism. Were were not as aware of the dangers of fascism so we had to be on the ball with Communism.


    You repeatedly state that Communism, in China and Russia was is not an ideology, that somehow it exists outside the power/material/historical context in which it was implemented. That is like saying Fascism can be separated from how Hitler implemented it, which it can not.

    Indeed, if you look at the history of Communist China you will see that Mao constantly strove to implement the ideals of Communism, namely, class warfare, collectivization, establishment of a society and government based on the poor and not the elites, etc. In the space of about 30 years it cost China 30,000,000 lives. I do not think it is appropriate or even intellectually honest to compare the horrendous loss of life that happens wherever Communism is tried, not to mention the prison camps, thought reform, and persecution, with the government lying about a few things.

  27. Kaimi
    August 26, 2004 at 11:43 am


    I think Obi is right on this one — there was strong support for Nazi ideas in both the U.S. and England, “Hitler bringing order to that country and throwing out the riffraff” kind of themes. Henry Ford hated Jews and donated money to the Nazi’s in Germany and the U.S. Charles Lindbergh also publicly supported the “scientific” ideas of racial superiority. Lindbergh, Ford, and many Americans expressed concern about an international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world (often combined with a concern that the Jews were working in league with the communists). To these people, Hitler and his opposition to communism and to the “international jew conspiracy” were a great development. Remember, as late as 1938, Britain was signing peace treaties with Germany.

  28. Frank McIntyre
    August 26, 2004 at 11:44 am

    As John has noted, and he may well be right, the Church’s opposition to Communism was noticeably more vocal than its opposition to Fascism. If we knew that God prefered both idealogies to be condemned by the Church identically, it would be fine to infer that a differential response by the Church implies Church leaders are acting not on revelation but on their own volition in at least one of the two cases.

    But the required assumption is that one knows that God wishes both to be treated the same. We manifestly do not know that. In fact, there is no particular reason to believe this to be the case.

    God knew that Fascism would be a soundly thrashed idealogy by 1945. God knew that Communism would be a prominent issue for the next 40 or 50 years. Thus a difference in approach between the philosophies may reflect a recognition not only of their inherent appeal in the 1930’s, but their appeal for the rest of the century (at least).

  29. Kaimi
    August 26, 2004 at 11:50 am

    I left out William Randolph Hearst, who was busily publishing pro-Nazi editorials in many of the nation’s most widely read newspapers for many years — I probably left out a lot of others too; the point is that a number of prominent Americans supported Hitler for many years prior to the war, and presumably influenced pro-Nazi sentiment among others.

  30. Frank McIntyre
    August 26, 2004 at 11:56 am

    Obi and Kaimi,

    Ford and Lindbergh are both notable for their lack of being members of the Church. The more relevant question would be to compare the differential support for the two idealogies among Church members.

    We also want to know how that differential support would look in the counterfactual cases where the Church:

    a. Took no stands
    b. Opposed Fascism but not Communism
    c. Opposed both equally

    And we want to know these things for not just the 1930’s but for the rest of time. We would then want to know how support for each party translated into lost testimonies, Church shisms and, ultimately, lost souls.

    This is the kind of information God would have in making a decision to inspire Church leaders to act or not act. We have almost none of this information. So we should be rightly skeptical when attempting to use Fascism as a test case for Communism or vice versa.

  31. Kaimi
    August 26, 2004 at 11:58 am

    A few google searches found some web sites that talk about Ford, Hearst, et al, and their support for the Nazis:

  32. Matt Evans
    August 26, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    Kaimi and Obi-wan,

    Please provide some histories that support your assertions. I just went through the half-dozen history books on my shelf that deal with the United States decision to enter World War II and none of them mention a sympathy for fascism, nazism or the American Nazi party.

    David M. Kennedy, Professor of History at Stanford: “Americans were overwhelmingly hostile to Hitler and nazism, but they were desparately determined to stay out of the war and not repeat the experience of 1917-1918.”

    The other books uniformly attribute our reluctance to enter the war to regrets about our involvement in World War I:

    Paul Johnson, A History of the American People
    David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: America from 1929 to 1945
    David M. Kennedy, A Brief American Pageant
    New York Public Library American History Desk Reference
    Almanac of American History

    If you are right, shouldn’t at least one of these sources know what you know about our reluctance to enter World War II?

  33. August 26, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Sorry to stray off-topic from the thread :-) but as I comment on A Soft Answer the sentence in question is not new and has been included since at least the 2000 FP letter. Since 2002 though it has been the last sentence of the letter which may give it some new emphasis.

    (Sorry for the self-promotion I would have trackbacked if I could)

  34. August 26, 2004 at 12:50 pm

    Sorry, I guess the trackback does work, just not displayed as I am used to it.

  35. Mike
    August 26, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    Kristine is unavailable? Is that what the second last name means?
    I wasn’t actually meaning to say that President Benson’s views became less extreme because he was Prophet (althouth that may be true) but kind of thought it was interesting the way the expression of extreme political ideas kind of disappeared later on (even though those ideas may still have been held)
    Reminds me of Joseph Fielding Smith’s outspoken advocacy of creationism in the very strictest sense kind of disappearing after he became prophet. I don’t know that his ideas changed, but his understanding of what he was called to do may have. Hard to say.

    Although, if you read some of the things Benson wrote quite a bit earlier in his life calling him a McCarthy early on wouldn’t necesarily be too out of line.

  36. August 26, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    Some of you seem to be speaking of Nazism and Fascism as if they were the polar opposites of Communism, yet in their doctrines, Communism and Nazi/Fascism are similar:

    NAZI is an acronym for National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei). As its name clearly shows, Nazism is a form of National Socialism and specifically invokes the proletariat working class in its name.

    Fascism a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

    Communism a. A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people. b. The Marxist-Leninist version of Communist doctrine that advocates the overthrow of capitalism by the revolution of the proletariat.

    While we tend to associate Eugenics with Nazism, the fact is that Eugenics and Socialism were popular ideologies among the intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th century. H.G. Wells, for instance, was a huge proponent of Socialism and Eugenics. The founder of the American Birth Control League (ABCL), which along with other groups eventually became known as Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a huge advocate of Nazi-style Eugenics (the modern Population Control movement traces its roots to the Eugenics of this period).

    Eugenicists were often economic collectivists and economic collectivists were often Eugenicists. The Nazi regime was an authoritarian socialist/eugenicist regime. Hitler minimized the socialist aspect of the party and emphasized the Nationalism and Eugenics. Hitler’s opposition to Communists was probably based on something other than their authoritarianism and forced collectivism.

  37. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 1:08 pm


    I think the time has probably come for us to just agree to disagree. I respect your opinion and your position, but you say: “The apostles singled-out communism because it was an evangelical ideology that was making inroads among Mormons and Americans. Had fascism won similar success for the hearts of church members, it would have been condemned too.” You have no evidence or proof of that, Matt. It seems like coming up with an explanation to comfort you so you can believe Apostles were doing more than just repeating cultural biases.

    I recognize that my own explanation of cultural influence is hard to prove as well, and I have no problem saying I may be wrong. But I’m a believer in Occam’s razor, and in this case, the most logical explanation seems to be that Church leaders were simply echoing the concerns of society. One more time: I’d need to see proof that any of them claimed a revelation or inspiration.

    As for the issue of Nazism in America, your sources are good historians, but such general overviews of history that I think they ignore some pretty important pieces of evidence. More topical studies have been done (I’m at work, so I don’t have access to them) that dispute what these historians say to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong – the vast majority of Americans were not fans of Hitler or Nazism or Fascism. But it isn’t a black and white situation – they don’t have to absolutely love it or absolutely hate it. The reality is, the intense hatred and paranoia Americans demonstrated over Communism overshadows their dislike for Nazism by about a 1,000 times. J. Reuben Clark, in particular, was opposed to World War II, even after it began, because of his isolationism, but also because he didn’t have that big of a problem with Nazi Germany.

    Frank: I also appreciate your perspective, but your explanation just strikes me as wishful thinking. You say “God knew that Fascism would be a soundly thrashed idealogy by 1945. God knew that Communism would be a prominent issue for the next 40 or 50 years.” Again, I think this is just a difference in our personal approaches to situations and conflicts. It’s much easier for me to accept that Church leaders were repeating cultural biases in regards to Communism than engage in reading God’s mind for why he may or may not have instructed Church leaders in some regard.

  38. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    Mike: “Reminds me of Joseph Fielding Smith’s outspoken advocacy of creationism in the very strictest sense kind of disappearing after he became prophet. I don’t know that his ideas changed, but his understanding of what he was called to do may have. Hard to say.”

    I know it’s a very popular belief to say that the mantle of the Presidency tempered men like Joseph Fielding Smith and Ezra Taft Benson, hence their more moderate tone. And that may very well be the case – we’ll never know or probably never be able to prove why they seemed to change.

    But I’ll just throw out another possibility:

    In the case of Joseph Fielding Smith, he was 93 at the time he was sustained as President of the Church, and he was largely unable to perform his duties due to age and infermity.

    In the case of President Benson, I think two things are important to note. First, when he became President, Reagan conservatism had swept the country. Benson had little he could actually rail against. Second, and more important, Benson became ill and incapacitated very early in his presidency – earlier than many people realize. His famous “Pride talk” was ghost written and read by someone else at conference because he was too ill to attend. He was unable to write or deliver a conference address only four years into his presidency. Very early in his presidency, he did show some signs of towing a very strict line, but other Church leaders made an effort to help moderate him. His famous talk on women working outside the home was opposed by both of his counselors, and President Hinckley immediately followed the talk with an Ensign article that suggested it was ok for some women to work outside the home. President Benson also worked to have a statement released condemning evolution, but was eventually convinced by his counselors not to go through with it. Shortly after, he became quite ill.

  39. hansemann
    August 26, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    In reference to an American Nazi Party prior to World War II:

    The only really organized group that I can recall in this country was the German-American Bund which was active in the Midwest, especially in states that had large populations of German ancestry. They faded away quickly after the US entered WWII.

  40. Frank McIntyre
    August 26, 2004 at 1:51 pm


    I don’t think you understood my comment as I intended. The part you quote is me stating the rather noncontroversial proposition that God is omniscient, and therefore he knew, in the 1930’s, what would eventually become of Fascism and Communism. This is not mind-reading, it is simply ascribing to God knowledge of the future.

    The mind-reading of God occurs when you assert that differential approaches to Fascism and Communism are not the result of revelation from God, but signs of uninspired leaders. This is the mindreading job. It requires you to know the will of God and the revelation that occurred.

    As for us taking different approaches, I’d wholeheartedly agree. But let’s be clear that your reading of history is not somehow more obvious or Occam’s Razorish. As I show above, the differential treatment of F. and C. cannot be evidence for your view unless you possessed knowledge about God (or God-like knowledge) that you freely admit you do not have.

    Since we lack evidence, I presume inspiration until shown otherwise. Lacking evidence, you, apparently, presume lack of inspiration. What you wish to call evidence is not evidence at all, it is merely a rephrasing of your presumption. This is especially troubling because I’d love to benefit from your knowledge of many details of Church history without having to worry that you have already interpreted them heavily through your presuppositions.

  41. Nathan Tolman
    August 26, 2004 at 2:01 pm


    Would you deny that Communism is evil? Look at the results every time it is tried. I would refer you back to my earlier comments to which you did not reply. How is this early warning when we knew relatively little about what was happening under Communism not prophetic and a warning?

    In the Doctrine and Covenants God gives Joseph revelations according to what he inquired about. What he inquired about was caused by his interest, and the needs and wants of the day.

    Is it that strange that the Brethren would inquire concerning Communism when it was such a hot topic? Not at all. Would God be interested in Communism and perhaps want to tell us something about it? Absolutely. With his foreknowledge, God could see the horrendous price it would exact from the countries that it won. True embrace of Communism by a member would entail him or her renouncing the Church as an element of control in a bourgeois system that administers a political opiate to those who believe in it.

  42. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 2:36 pm


    You’re still mindreading, however, and still attributing reasons for God’s decisions that we can’t possibly know. Just because we believe God is omniscient, and knows the future doesn’t solve this problem. You are still assuming the following about God (therefore, reading his mind):

    1. That God decided not to give inspiration to leaders about Nazism and Fascism because he knew it wouldn’t last long.

    2. That God decided he would give inspiration to leaders about Communism because he knew it would be around a lot longer.

    3. That God regards 12 years (the length of Hitler’s reign) as not a lengthy enough time to warrant a revelation warning about Nazism.

    4. That God regards 45 or so years (roughly the length of the Cold War) as a sufficiently lengthy enough time period to warrant a revelation warning about Communism.

    Frank, again, I appreciate your point of view. But you’re not reading the data and then drawing the logical conclusion, IMO. You’re committing the classic fallacy of saying A) God is omniscient and therefore knows the time periods of both Nazism and Communism, and B) Church leaders spoke out more against Communism than Nazism, therefore C) God warned Church leaders about Communism and not Nazism. A and B don’t necessarily lead to C.

  43. Frank McIntyre
    August 26, 2004 at 3:56 pm


    We are almost on the same page, but not quite.

    I am not assuming 1-4 then saying that differential treatment of F and C “prove” me right. This would be, as you point out, a tautology. I am saying there is no evidence from the events surrounding F and C that differentiates inspired from uninspired action. Both are plausible readings of the evidence, and so neither is falsified by the events.

    You made the stronger claim that the treatment of Communism (with Fascism as a control) provides evidence that the Church leaders were not acting under inspiration. You said:

    “I personally don’t see how Church leaders’ opposition to communism in the 50s and 60s can be seen as anything more than evidence that the Brethren are not immune from cultural paranoia.”

    But I show that this claim follows from your presuppositions, not from the evidence.

    So here is the crucial difference. You claimed the way F and C were treated is the magic eight-ball saying “cultural paranoia”, I show that it really says “ask again later”, and the evidence for “cultural paranoia” is simply a matter of what you brought to the eight ball.

    If I have misinterpreted your claim, I apologize for wasting your time.

  44. Jack
    August 26, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    “I personally don’t see how Church leaders’ opposition to communism…

    [shall we add: abortion, ERA & SSM or anything socially controversial to the list?]

    …can be seen as anything more than evidence that the Brethren are not immune from cultural paranoia.”

    The brethren have also denounced abuse in all it’s ugly forms. But lo, there is now hope for the abuser to, at last, throw off the shackles of guilt. For, the condemnation of his actions by his spiritual leaders were merely the ramblings of the culturally paranoid.

  45. Matt Evans
    August 26, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    John H,

    I found this quote by John A. Widstoe, a bona fide church leader, equating and condemning communism, fascism and nazism, in 1936, the same year of the First Presidency’s anti-communist statement:

    “The Gospel is…a set of ideals by which every proposition may be measured Latter-day Saints should test every new offering by Gospel standards. For example, the right of free agency is fundamental in the Gospel. . . Communism, Fascism and Naziism may be judged by this principle — whatever endangers to the least degree man’s right to act for himself is not of God and must be resisted by Latter-day Saints.”

    More importantly, I found this statement by J. Reuben Clark who, contrary to the claim that he was a fascist, blistered fascism and nazism alongside communism. From a 1945 speech:

    In the 1750’s, two systems of revolutionary thought emerged. One system deals with our social, economic, and governmental order, the material things and aspects of life. This system is two-fold, embracing Socialism and Communism, and with these two I shall always hereinafter include, without naming them, those other family members of this foul brood, Nazism, Bolshevism, and Fascism.

    [Their power] can only be accounted for only by assuming they are directed by one superior malevolent intelligence.

    The great apostles of the material systems have often been men of high ideals and of lofty purpose, but their inspiration has come from the wrong source, and so they have reached wrong conclusions and have advocated wrong principles and methods.

    Neither Socialism nor Communism has always taught the same principles nor advocated the same measures . . .These systems have never aimed at consistency in teh proselyting, for in this they have always been opportunistic . . .Whatever might draw the multitude at any given time and place, that they have used and doubtless will use.

    Each of these…leads to the utter destruction of our present social, economic, and governmental system, and the setting up instead [the State as] the despotic head.

    While certain elements of this Socialist-Communist system had their beginning in antiquity and have appeared at various times since, yet they had their real beginning in the modern world.

    From what Clark says here, I find it wholly unbelievable that he was a Nazi sympathizer but an ardent anti-communist in the 30s and early 40s. Someone who has just recently been betrayed by a movement they supported does not argue that the movement’s evil roots are 200 years old, claim that it never aimed at consistency, or conflate it with a movement he’s always despised.

    John H, now that I found these quotes, I’m curious to know where you heard that Clark was a closet fascist, that no church leader denounced Nazism or Hitler from 1933 to 1945, or that Clark “loathed Jews.” I’m also interested in any information on fascists recruiting converts in America or histories that suggest American sympathy for fascism was a factor in our reluctance to enter WWII. The only indication of American pre-WWII attitudes toward nazism I can find is David M. Kennedy’s statement that Americans were “overwhelmingly hostile” towards nazism. By definition, a people who have “a great deal of sympathy” for a cause are not “overwhelming hostile” towards it, so either Kennedy or Obi-wan is mistaken. I’d like to learn more, so please point me to the topical accounts you’re aware of.

  46. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    Matt, I think you’re losing the larger picture. You find two quotes from Church leaders (one in 1945, just a teeny bit late to be jumping on the anti-Nazi bandwagon) as sudden evidence that Church leaders were opposed to Fascism and Nazism. You’ve misunderstood my point. Two quotes don’t come close to suggesting that Church leaders were as openly hostile to Nazism as they were to Communism. My entire point was that Church leaders have been far more vocal about Communism than they were Hitler and Nazism, which followed a pattern in the United States at the time.

    So I’ll ask the question again: If God inspired Church leaders to denounce Communism, why on earth didn’t he insire them to denounce Hitler and Nazism? Not once from 1933-45 did the First Presidency release a single statement that denounced Adolf Hitler or the Nazis.

    As for J. Reuben Clark’s views, I never called him a closet fascist and I don’t think that’s a fair representation of what I’ve been trying to say. Again Matt, you’re too busy trying to insist Church leaders *must* have been inspired in their denunciation of Communism to see what I’m trying to say. Again, this isn’t a black and white issue. It is possible for Americans to be wary of Hitler and Nazism, yet loathe Communism far more. I think that was the case. I’ve never said Americans were fond of Nazis or agreed with everything they did. What I’ve tried to say is that the hysteria over Nazi Germany simply didn’t exist the same way hysteria over Communism existed. How you get that Clark was a closet Fascist from statements like that is beyond me.

    As for J. Reuben Clark loathing the Jews, perhaps that was a bit strong of a sentiment, and I regret that. But if anyone qualified as anti-Semitic, he did. He said, “they are unscrupulous and they are cruel.” That’s from a letter to Herbert Hoover in 1942. Notice the date – it wasn’t exactly an easy time to be Jewish in the world, yet that was Clark’s attitude toward them. In his office diary, he recorded a meeting with a “typical Jew banker of the worst type.” He owned the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion and distributed copies to friends and acquaintances.

    Clark considered Jews responsible for Communism, and owned books that accused Jews of puppeteering Communist conspiracies. When one Church member said Jews wanted to destroy Christianity and bring it into bondage, Clark actually agreed with him. Despite the 1945 quote you dug up, he expressed a different view in 1937: “Nazi dislike of Jews and hatred of Communism are at the root of most propaganda against that nation.” Clark appears to have changed his mind about the Nazis as the war closed. When Jews were trying to escape from Germany, Clark said he did not want any more Jews to come to the United States to “bore termite-like into our whole national structure.”

    If the Church was so ardently anti-Nazi, as you suggest, why did in 1933 the Church News publish an article that highlighted the parallels between “the Church and some of the ideas and policies of National Socialists.” Was God’s inspiration just unecessary when it came to the Nazis, the same way it was with Communism? Photos of Church leaders visiting German dignitaries in front of the Nazi swastika were published in the Church News. A handful of quotes aside, if Church leaders were inspired to denounce the Nazis, there should easily be as many statements and quotes as there is about Communism. Yet a quick search of General Conference reports only turns up three or four references to Nazi Germany – only one or two even remotely critical.

    I know I’m already rambling too much. I just don’t want anyone to misunderstand me. I’m not trying to be critical of the Church for not denouncing Hitler or Nazism more. They were unaware of exactly what the Hitler war machine was doing and what they were capable of. We knew they weren’t being kind to Jews, but we had no idea of Hitler’s final solution or the coming holocaust.

    Once again, my only point is, it seems reasonable to expect that if God inspired Church leaders to criticize Communism, he would have inspired them to criticize Hitler and Nazism. I still have yet to see anyone provide any kind of evidence whatsoever that even remotely suggests Church leaders were inspired by God in their criticisms.

  47. obi-wan
    August 26, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    Matt — The source that I happen to have handy is Jacques R. Pauwels, “The Myth of The Good War” (2002). It shouldn’t be too hard for you to come up with others if you’re willing to look outside what is known in the business as “comfortable historiography.”

  48. Adam Greenwood
    August 26, 2004 at 7:41 pm

    You kinda have a thin account of revelation, John H. You seem to be saying that if God inspired the prophets at all, then he would inspire them in everything. I don’t see it. Prophets aren’t automata. Their own interests and circumstances play a role in what they are or are not prepared to recieve in the way of revelation as do, inter alia, the interests and circumstances of the people for whom the revelation would be recieved.

    The prophets never told us that the Vietnam War would be unpopular! That SDI would bankrupt the Soviets! That Saturn has twisty rings!

  49. Jack
    August 26, 2004 at 8:42 pm

    John H.:

    I think to some degree the world viewed the new and invigorated Germany as quite miraculous (though, admittedly, the world was a little nervious about it because of the previous war). In a matter of a few short years Germany sky-rocketed from economic conditions so deplorable that a wheelbarrel full of money could barely purchase a loaf of bread, to a viable superpower. Perhaps, if naziism had gone no further than to get a defunked Germany back on it’s economic feet, the word “nazi” would not carry nearly as fowl a stigma as it does today.

    That being said, I think it’s unfair to suggest that church leaders may have been sympathetic to naziizm – as we view it – when they shared none of the post-war hind-sight that we have today.

    As for your question about why the brethren didn’t warn the saints of the pending dangers of naziism; I think it’s pretty simple. The entire christian world went to war to stop it. Should we have tempted God by asking Him if naziism was wrong?

  50. August 26, 2004 at 8:46 pm

    “I’m curious to know where you heard that Clark was a closet fascist…”

    I saw that and got very worried at first. What on earth are people saying about me! Then I read the paragraphs before and saw it was J. Reuben Clark. “Whew.”

  51. Nathan Tolman
    August 26, 2004 at 8:53 pm

    John H.,

    You assume that revalidation occurs as if the Brethren are just siting around and the Spirit suddenly moves them and they receive revelation. In Church History, as I pointed out before, this is simply not true in every case. Somtimes a revelation must be sought out as shown in numerous cases. That, especially taken with your instances above explain why we have one and not the other. Plus, the Church, for better or worse, has and does maintain relationships with sometimes governments, to pursue its interests and achieve and/or maintain the rights of its members.

    You want evidence it was inspired? We can look back now and point to the known risks of Tobacco and have a conformation beyond the Spirit that the Word of Wisdom is true. Indeed, the proof is in the pudding.

    Try looking at the horrible wake of Communism. I will speak to the case I know best. As I pointed out before, Mao strove diligently to implement the principles of Communism in China, class warfare, collectivism, an egalitarian society based on the needs of the poor and not a rich elite, etc. This proceeded for about thirty years and cost 30,000,000 lives, not to mention prison camps, thought reform, and confiscation of property. I could go on to the Soviets, Cambodia, Vietnam, and North Korea. Looking back, how can you say it was not inspired?

    Plus, the Prophet, as shown in the many encounters between Prophets and those preaching false teachings, has a responsibility to warn us against ideologies that will seriously take us away from the truth. Communism is definitely one. As stated before, a classical Marxist would denounce the Church as a distributer of an political opiate keeping the working classes in line. This was very clear at the time the Brethren spoke out on Communism. The Frankfort School, a group of German Communists that immigrated to the US during WWII and perhaps receives the most attention by academics now, calls for a world of “polymorphic perversity,” allowing everyone to follow every whim divorced from moral principle, which a a cultural bulwark of bourgeois oppression. Thus, it was important to speak out against Communism as a method of thought. On the other hand, As you pointed out, the Brethren had no real idea what Nazism was really about, how could they seek the guidance from the Lord on the matter?

  52. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 10:23 pm


    By your logic, then Joseph McCarthy was a very, very inspired man. I might be able to get on board with what you’re saying if Church leaders were somehow loners in the crusade against Communism. But my precise point is that Church leaders were saying *exactly* what everyone else was saying at the time. The anti-Communist movement didn’t exactly begin with Church leaders. So was everyone who spoke out against Communism receiving revelations? Or was it just Church leaders?

  53. John H
    August 26, 2004 at 10:33 pm


    I really don’t have that narrow a view of revelation. Is it really that unreasonable to believe that Church leaders, who were repeating the same rhetoric as national leaders, were influenced by their cultural biases?

    Could Church leaders have been inspired to criticize Communism? Of course – I think I’ve made that clear all along. I have no problem believing that. But I’ll confess that given the evidence I’ve seen thus far, I’m mighty skeptical.

    I also suspect we wouldn’t be having this conversation if instead of talking about Church leaders, we were just talking about Joe Blow or even national leaders. If Church leaders said today that terrorism was bad, would we all just agree that they were repeating what all of us believed, or did they have to wait to receive a revelation before making such a bold pronouncement?

  54. john fowles
    August 26, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    Jack wrote Perhaps, if naziism had gone no further than to get a defunked Germany back on it’s economic feet, the word “nazi” would not carry nearly as fowl a stigma as it does today

    I hope this wasn’t a veiled reference to me (“fowl”)!

  55. Nathan Tolman
    August 26, 2004 at 11:33 pm


    Guilt by association? Come on.

    The two are different in two main aspects:

    1. Simply, the Brethren are ordained by God to warn and preach to the people as prophets, seers and revelators. Senators have no such ordination.

    2. The nature of the messages are different. McCartney said there were x number of Communists in the state dept. and they needed to be investigated, which turned to a general hounding of supposed Communists all over.

    The Brethren were warning about the dangers of Communism as a path that leads away from freedom and faith as well as being something disastrous for the individual and nation. I don’t think anyone can it was anything else.

    What I find interesting is the supposition in Ochem’s razor that says it is used when judging equally plausible explanations (if I remember my philosophy class correctly). When you invoke Occam’s razor you were basically saying that, in lack of any “proof” (whatever one thinks proof would be), it is equally plausible that the brethren would act without the inspiration of God (cultural causes) as with His guidance. Am I mistaken?

  56. Jack
    August 27, 2004 at 12:28 am

    Sorry John Fowles! No, there’s nothing subliminal in my comment – not even my weakness for spelling. (which is evidence that I quit high school a year early)

    FOUL. Doh!

  57. John H
    August 27, 2004 at 1:11 am


    No one was trying to invoke guilt by association. McCarthy was an extreme example, no doubt about it. But once again, it seems strange to me to act like Mormon leaders were somehow on the front lines of the fight against Communism. Plenty of people were warning about exactly the same things Church leaders were. Yet again, I find no one is answering my question: Were only Church leaders inspired to denounce Communism, or was everyone who spoke out against it receiving revelation?

    Everyone seems to be responding to my comments because they’re convinced I’m somehow being defensive of Communism. I do think the “red scare” was greatly overexaggerated, but I’m no fan of Communism. My point remains the same: Church leaders were probably not acting on inspiration or revelation, but were most likely acting on the cultural norms of the time as they denounced Communism.

  58. Frank McIntyre
    August 27, 2004 at 11:33 am


    Let’s phrase the arguments in terms of a chemistry experiment. We have two chemicals – C and F. We have another chemical, called Culture, that is known to react violently with C but very little with F. Last, we have a flask, called Prophet, that may contain the chemical Culture, and may contain another chemical called Divine. We wish to know whether the flask, Prophet, contains Culture or Divine. We may also have some hypothesis that it mixes the two, but we’ll defer that in order to concentrate on the more basic problem.

    We put the chemical in the Prophet flask into C and it reacts violently. We put some into F and get almost no reaction. You then announce that this is evidence that the flask must contain mostly Culture, because what we observe is the same as what we observe with the Culture chemical.

    But you have no idea about how Divine mixes with F or C. So your experiment can give you no confidence because you don’t know if it separates Culture from the Divine. The experiment, therefore, is completely uninformative and based on that alone you could not say at all what is in the flask. You certainly would not make statements like

    “Church leaders were probably not acting on inspiration or revelation, but were most likely acting on the cultural norms of the time as they denounced Communism.”

    based on the experiment.

    Suppose we give you the additional information that the flask has 90% Culture in it 90% of the time. Then you could make the above kind of statement, but it would be entirely based upon your prior beliefs about how much culture was in the flask. It would not be based on the experiment.

    Similarly, your conclusion about Church leaders reactions is based on your prior beliefs, not on differential treatment of Communism and Fascism, nor on your more other claim that the culture opposed Communism and not Fascism. Without some assumption about how the Divine mixes with F and C, these are simply not informative.

    To assert that the experiment is informative is identical to asserting that you have information about the Divine and how it reacts to F and C.

  59. August 27, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    Whoa, nelly! I’ve just made my way through 58 comments about political ideology and Mormonism, and I have come to the conclusion that a few of you think your ballots have only two options on them:

    a) Republicans
    b) Communists

    Wow, those “shadowy 527 groups” really have pulled the wool over my eyes! I had been laboring under the impression that the presidential election in the U.S. this year was pretty much down to the right-wing Republican Party and the centrist Democratic Party.

    Folks, liberalism was anti-communist, too. (That’s one reason it’s got “freedom” right there in its Latin root.) Why has a much needed conversation about the legitimacy of Mormon participation in diverse political parties turned into another bogeyman fight with the commies?

  60. Nathan Tolman
    August 27, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    Perhaps you missed something. The thread was basically sidetracked when we started talking about the Brethrens” pronouncements on Communism back in the day. They have nothing to do with the current race. I think most fair minded people would agree with you, although I know a few of my classmates who would like to see the Frankfurt Group’s vision of a world of Polymorphic perversity causing the fall of Capitalism become reality.

  61. August 27, 2004 at 7:48 pm

    dear Philo:, et al. are not centrist.

    also, there is no “needed” conversation. everyone knows one “can” choose to vote/participate in either major political party…and probably almost all of the smaller 3rd parties as well. whether or not individuals actually do choose to “diversify” their political allegiances is an entirely different, and individual, question.

  62. Matt Evans
    August 28, 2004 at 10:06 am

    John (and Obi-wan),

    First of all, I never argued or suggested that God inspired the First Presidency to condemn communism. You’ve been arguing that point with Frank. I don’t believe the First Presidency needed a direct revelation to know that a movement that had overthrown the social order and churches in Russia, and called for unified global revolution, was a movement Mormons shouldn’t involve themselves in.

    I had disagreed with your assertion that the First Presidency’s anti-communist stance was due to a cultural bias. Their anti-communist stance was based not on bias but on facts. Like you, I think fascism was at least as evil as communism. Where we disagree is with your assumption that the church purports to condemn things in proportion to their evil or that the church was claiming prescient knowledge about either movement. Over the past 10 years, the church has widely condemned pornography and consumer debt, but not Banana Republic dictators, or the child sex trade in southeast Asia. By your logic, we should assume these priorities are due to an American cultural norm that considers consumer debt worse than forced child sex. That does not make sense to me.

    There is a better explanation for why the church condemns consumer debt with greater frequency than genocide in Rwanda or the Balkans: our leaders focus on evils that (a) their listeners can effect or that (b) directly effect their listeners. They don’t spend time condemning atrocites around the world.

    The church condemned communism because it openly aspired to infiltrate every church and society, was making inroads among Mormons, had shown itself to be tyrannical, and had made great successes around the world. The leaders told members to do something concrete: quit their communist orders, resist the call for global revolution, and encourage others to do the same. Because the facts weren’t comparable for fascism, a comparable response wasn’t necessary.

    In characterizing your statements about J. Reuben Clark, I was trying to be charitable by using “Nazi sympathizer” and “closet fascist.” You actually suggested he supported the holocaust by writing, “We knew how the Nazis treated the Jews, but we were sufficiently racist enough to not care all that much (J. Reuben Clark in particular loathed Jews),” and “even after the war began . . . [Clark didn’t] have that big of a problem with Nazi Germany.” This was several years after Kristallnacht (1938), when the German ambassador cabled Berlin saying the American press “is without exception incensed against Germany . . . even the thoroughly anti-Semitic circles begin to turn away.” (Incidentally, I’m still curious to know where you learn things like Clark’s distributing the Protocols.)

    Finally, I’m still waiting for evidence that contradicts David M. Kennedy’s claim that Americans were “overwhelmingly hostile to Hitler and Nazism.” Integrity demands that you follow up your scathing assertions, such as Americans being indifferent to Nazi treatment of Jews or Americans not entering WWII due to a widespread sympathy for fascism, with evidence.

    John H: “American culture didn’t have that big of a problem with Hitler until the war began. We knew how the Nazis treated the Jews, but were sufficiently racist enough not to care all that much.”

    Obi-wan: “There was a great deal of sympathy for fascism in this country, including an American Nazi party, prior to the entry of the U.S. into the war. (A major reason why we waited so long, and very nearly didn’t enter the European war.) Every indication is that fascism had as much, probably far more, appeal to members of the Church than did communism.”

    I quoted one of the era’s prominent historians, who contradicts these charges, and five reliable histories that provide no support for your claims. It’s your burden to show that your scathing charges have bases in fact. Naming a book isn’t evidence, especially one written by a bus tour guide. (The author of the book Obi-wan offered as defense of his accusation works as a tour guide for his family’s Canadian travel company. You can see a cute picture of him at the front of a tour bus on his website.) l’m not saying that tour guides can’t write good histories, but a more credible source is in order, or at least some citations from the bus guide’s book. He was born in Belgium in 1946, raised in Europe, and has since lived in Canada, so he presumably doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of American pre-war attitudes and therefore relied on primary sources to research his book. Hopefully he cited those sources.

    Googling for information on the American Nazi party has pointed only to a neo-nazi group formed in 1959 with that name.

  63. August 28, 2004 at 10:21 am

    Matt: Don’t hold your breath. Obi has a secret identity & secret sources. But then again, dont’ we all? ;)

  64. Matt Evans
    August 28, 2004 at 10:45 am


    My experiences with Obi-wan have been positive. We frequently disagree, as we both do with many others at T&S, but I haven’t seen him duck issues or rely on secret sources.

  65. John H
    August 28, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    Matt, at this point I’m fairly convinced you’re hearing only what you want to hear. After my assertion that Clark was anti-Semitic, you defended him. I have responded with what I would regard as sufficient evidence that he was anti-Semitic. (The sources you’re looking for include his office journals, his papers, public addresses, and biographies by Michael Quinn and Frank Fox. Quinn in particular documents these events and provides sources anyone can check – and I have. And before anyone jumps on the anti-Quinn bandwagon, his biography was written while he was at BYU and his manuscript was approved by the Clark family and Church officials.)

    Only an extremely tortured, selective reading of what I’ve written could be used to construe that I accused Clark of supporting the Holocaust. In one post I said, “I’m not trying to be critical of the Church for not denouncing Hitler or Nazism more. They were unaware of exactly what the Hitler war machine was doing and what they were capable of. We knew they weren’t being kind to Jews, but we had no idea of Hitler’s final solution or the coming holocaust.” Apparently you simply chose to ignore that.

    It certainly was possible to be anti-Semitic and not be pleased with the holocaust, just as it was possible to be racist towards African-Americans and denounce lynchings.

    Yet again you continue to misrepresent what I’ve said. So let me spell it out for you one last time: I don’t believe Americans were fans of Hitler and Nazi Germany. They were in fact generally opposed to Nazism as a principle. But anti-Semitism was also rampant in America in the 30s and 40s. So when I made the statement that you love to keep repeating, my point was that American objections to Nazism was *not* out of Nazi treatment of the Jews. Surely Matt, you are familiar with the hundreds, perhaps thousands of American private clubs and organizations that excluded Jews, along with blacks and women. You know about the fear most Jewish business and industry leaders (especially those in the entertainment industry) lived in that their ethnicity would be discovered. William Randolph Hearst threatened to expose movie studio execs as Jews if they continued to support Citizen Kane. This hardly sounds like a society sympathetic to Jews.

    If you insist on repeatedly citing one sentence I hastily wrote, while continuing to ignore many follow up posts that have since clarified what I said, then I’m not sure we have much more to discuss.

  66. greenfrog
    August 28, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    So I’ll ask the question again: If God inspired Church leaders to denounce Communism, why on earth didn’t he insire them to denounce Hitler and Nazism? Not once from 1933-45 did the First Presidency release a single statement that denounced Adolf Hitler or the Nazis.

    This is a good question.

  67. Jack
    August 28, 2004 at 5:10 pm

    “The church condemned communism because it openly aspired to infiltrate every church and society, was making inroads among Mormons, had shown itself to be tyrannical, and had made great successes around the world. The leaders told members to do something concrete: quit their communist orders, resist the call for global revolution, and encourage others to do the same. Because the facts weren’t comparable for fascism, a comparable response wasn’t necessary.”

    This was a good answer.

  68. Kaimi
    August 28, 2004 at 5:34 pm


    There’s no need to go all attack-dog here. Your tone is really combative: “Integrity demands that you follow up” and so forth.

    My goodness, we’re on a blog here. We’re not in court; no one’s under oath; no one’s life is at stake; we’re a bunch of people who, in our spare time, like to chat, speculate, discuss issues.

  69. Matt Evans
    August 28, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    John H,

    I didn’t dispute that Clark was anti-Semitic. I read your saying that Clark “didn’t have that big of a problem with Nazi Germany,” and your other assertions, to carry more baggage than typical 1930s anti-Semitism. Many Mormons at that time also thought blacks were inferior, to borrow the racism analogy, but that doesn’t mean that Mormons, “didn’t have that big of a problem with the KKK.” Because sympathy for the Nazis or KKK cannot be inferred by typical anti-Semitic or racist ideas, evidence beyond those statements is needed to establish that Clark “didn’t have that big of a problem” with the Nazis.

    And thank you for providing the books and sources about Clark, I really did want to know. (My tone may have made the inquiry appear to be a challenge, but I really was curious.)

    As for Americans generally, I agree with your last statement, that Americans were not “fans of Hitler and Nazi Germany.” Had you said that from the outset, I wouldn’t have challenged the point. But originally you said, “American culture did not have that big a problem with Hitler until the war began.” You may have been trying to say the same thing on both occasions, but those sentences do not mean the same thing. It was because Americans had a big problem with Hitler and Nazi Germany that they were not fans of them.

    In clarifying your position, however, you wrote your sentence in way that makes it untrue: “[M]y point was that American objections to Nazism was *not* out of Nazi treatment of the Jews.”

    In fact, many American objections to Nazis stemmed precisely from their savage treatment of the Jews. The American reaction to Kristillnacht shows this to be the case.

    In 1938 the German ambassador in Washington cabled Berlin that Kristillnacht “had raised a hurricane of condemnation” in the American press, which was “without exception incensed against Germany. Even the. . .anti-Semitic in their outlook also begin to turn away from us.”

    What was this event that caused a hurricane of condemnation from incensed Americans against Germany? Hitler had organized a pogrom. Nazis had looted Jewish homes, burned Jewish synagogues, smashed Jewish shops, killed dozens of Jews and arrested around 20,000 Jewish “criminals.” It was called Kristillnacht (Crystal Night) for the amounts of broken glass on the streets. The government then declared that the damage would be repaired by levying an “atonement fine” on the Jews.

    Roosevelt called the US ambassador back from Berlin for “consultation,” and he never went back.

    Even though many Americans didn’t like or trust Jews themselves, they repudiated the Nazis for their brutality against them.


    Yea, I need to work on my tone. I’m abnormally thick-skinned and struggle to be a gentle bull in the china closet. But don’t you agree that integrity requires people to back up damning acusations with facts, even on T&S? (I admit I should have instead said, “Integrity requires.” ‘Demands’ sounds too confrontational.)

  70. Kaimi
    August 29, 2004 at 10:33 am


    The fact is, that both you and John are not World War 2 historians. You are both amateurs, making comments on a blog in your spare time. I don’t know what John’s spare time situation is like, but there are threads and discussions that I participate in, that I don’t have time to do extraneous research for. They include this one.

    The web sites I previously linked to mention at least one book dealing with the topic, called The American Axis. The amazon page for that book lists a number of related ones (see ) including American Swastika.

    I can’t and won’t vouch for the accuracy of these books. From the Amazon descriptions, I can’t tell how good they are or aren’t. But they may be a start if you’re interested in doing further research.

    On a broader level, let’s talk about the propriety of your attack. You clearly care about this topic more than, well, anyone else who’s discussing it. You’ve invested some time in a little basic research on the topic, excellent. You then demanded that anyone who wants to argue against you invest similar time. Matt, we don’t all have spare time, and we don’t all care about this topic.

    There is nothing dishonest about saying, “I’m not an expert on this topic, and I’m writing this in the 15 minutes of spare time I have at the moment, but my limited understanding of X is . . .” That’;s the nature of blog commentary. If only experts could comment, we wouldn’t have many comments around here. Unless someone claims expertise, I believe that the standard assumption for a blog comment is that it is written with such caveats.

    Thus, I question the intellectually honesty of making assertions that inegrity requires further research. I, for one, am finished with World War 2 research — yes, the google search and a few amazon searches are the extent of my digging, and no, I don’t see a problem with that, because it’s a peripheral topic that I really don’t care one way or the other about. I suspect that John Hatch is also done. I don’t think that a demand for further research, especially one about a throwaway blog comment (and coming from someone who’s own “further research” consisted of walking to his own bookcase) is appropriate.

    p.s. As noted above in another commenter’s comment, the American group allied with the Nazi party prior to the war was called the Bund, not the American Nazi Party.

  71. August 29, 2004 at 10:43 am

    Doesn’t seem unreasonable, esp. when discussing an Apostle/Member of the First Presidency, for integrity, or at least respect for the LDS faith, to require some factual research.

  72. Nathan Tolman
    August 29, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Just a note on Obi-wan’s source:

    I used proquest to try to find any scholarly reviews of Jacques R. Pauwels, “The Myth of The Good War.” It has been a good two years since it was published and I could only find one in a relatively minor literary (not historical) journal. While I would not maintain the only legitimate historical scholarship comes from historians, I would say that scholarly journals in the discipline have not been shy at taking up books written by non-specialists for review, if they are deemed to meet some basic standards. Apparently this book does not.

  73. Jack
    August 29, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    Kiami: It seems to me that Matt’s primary concern has to do with what social/political/cultural conditions will or will not evoke inspired pronouncements on said conditions from the brethren, not WWII per se. I don’t think it’s out of the bounds of propriety to require some factual evidence to support one’s claim that the brethren must not have been inspired because their pronouncements didn’t jive with one’s personal take on the social morality of the era in question – especially when the LDS believe that church swings on the hing of inpiration/revelation. This is an LDS blog is it not?

    Forgive me Matt and John if I’ve put too many words in your mouths.

    PS. I must say, in John’s favor, that he does manage to keep a fair level of composure even when the whole blog-world is against him. Kudos.

  74. August 29, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Note: and are both doing a series on why an LDS citizen would not/would (respectively) vote Republican. enjoy. :)

  75. August 29, 2004 at 7:30 pm

    p.s. if you want to see how ‘real’ Democrats treat Sheri Dew, check out the Demo blog Atrios

    read the comments…and you will know why some folks choose not to be Democrats.

  76. Matt Evans
    August 30, 2004 at 2:10 am


    I agree that time is precious, and I’m not certain that the time it’s taken me to show that Obi-wan and John’s allegations about pre-war Americans are wrong was well spent. You may be right that I should have just ignored the allegations. But it made me angry to see the American people maligned for sympathizing with or being indifferent to the Nazi’s prior to WWII, including the destruction of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues, when it wasn’t true. Americans were outraged by Nazi atrocities and, once they swallowed the bitter aftertaste of WWI and ended their isolation, Americans sent their sons to rid the world of Nazism. To show that the allegations were without merit, I opened some books that hadn’t left my shelf in a long time. That was an enjoyable use of time in itself.

    Regarding the level of factual accuracy we should aim for at Times & Seasons, I don’t know that there’s an easy answer. Yes, Internet readers should imagine a big “Reader Beware” alarm above factual claims. My preference, however, would be for Times & Season to have a higher standard than an anonymous message board. We do not tolerate ad hominem attacks, we moderate our comments, and we otherwise do our best to avoid some of the pitfalls common to the Internet. (I’m working on my Internet tone, too. Like Jack, I admire John’s coolheadedness.) Also, by subjecting some factual claims to scrutiny, we will incrementally raise the standard for factual claims at T&S. I know that as others have corrected my errors, I’ve become more cautious when making claims outside my confident knowledge.

    Going back to the issue of time, I didn’t ever ask Obi-wan to invest as much time as I did, but merely to provide citations from the book he said he “happen[ed] to have handy.” But even if he hadn’t said the book was handy, it seems reasonable to me that those who make allegations of malevolence, or indifference to evil, should be discouraged from making such allegations at T&S unless they’re able to provide some evidence beyond personal opinion. Most, if not all, of the T&S authors have edited or written for prestigious scholarly journals. And though I recognize it’s impossible and undesireable for T&S to adopt all of their standards, I do think T&S should use the fundamental standard that writers support damning allegations with facts. I don’t think this standard should be onerous, for the reasons you mention.

    I don’t plan to investigate the allegations of American sympathies for Nazis, or their indifference to the brutal treatment of the Jews, any further. I’ve sufficiently researched the question to feel confident that the allegations lacked merit. As for the two books you found, I did look them up. The first one, The American Axis, was dissed by Publishers Weekly, the only professional review listed on Amazon, who calls it a “highly speculative rehash” that “tries and fails to sensationalize well-known facts.” According to the review, the second book, American Swastika is the best one on the subject. It is out of print and no reviews are listed on Amazon, but its subtitle, “The Shocking Story of Nazi Collaborators in Our Midst from 1933 to the Present Day [1985],” suggests that it focuses on individuals and not a plurality of Americans.

  77. Matt Evans
    August 30, 2004 at 9:42 am

    I found survey data that shows American sentiment against the Nazis for Kristillnacht was widespread. According to the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a 1938 poll found that 94 percent of Americans disapproved of Nazi treatment of the Jews.

    Popular American Opinion

    The American people rejected increasing immigration. Even before the Great Depression, Americans overwhelmingly supported restrictive immigration quotas. The 1924 Immigration Act reflected popular sentiment that the United States had absorbed as many immigrants as it could and that further immigrants, with their poverty, their European quarrels, and there pro-labor or even pro-communist ideas, would only destabilize American society. The Great Depression, which had led to mass unemployment during the 1930s, exacerbated existing concerns, and politicians who favored continued restrictions on immigration built their argument around the high unemployment rates in America (In 1930, the unemployment rate was 8.9 percent; in 1932, 27 percent; in 1933, 25.2 percent; in 1935, 20.3 percent; in 1937, 14.5 percent; and in 1939, 20.1 percent).

    In 1938, as unemployment was again on the rise, four separate polls indicated that between 71 and 85 percent of all Americans opposed increasing quotas to help refugees. Sixty-seven percent of Americans favored a halt to all immigration. During the 1930s, for the first time in U.S. history, those leaving the United States outnumbered those entering.

    The American people rejected increasing Jewish immigration. Immediately following Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) in November 1938, 94 percent of a sample poll by the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago disapproved of Nazi treatment of Jews, but 72 percent were opposed to admitting a large number of German Jews into the United States. Even after Kristallnacht, two-thirds of the American public opposed the Wagner-Rogers bill that would have permitted 20,000 Jewish children (independent of the German quota) to enter the United States on an emergency basis. The bill was allowed to die in the Senate in 1939. Jewish leaders in America were deeply concerned about the dangers faced by German and Austrian Jews, but American Jewry, composed of disunited political factions, was unable to alter United States immigration policy.

    Despite this generally gloomy history, it should be noted that the United States admitted 250,000 Jews between 1933 and 1945, and 115,000 Jewish refugees between 1940 and 1945.

  78. Pingback: A Soft Answer
  79. Pingback: A Soft Answer
  80. Pingback: A Soft Answer
  81. Kellen Nebelski
    October 20, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Political offiliation may not have anything to do with one’s ability to be a good church member, but consider this…. America and the constitution, along with the freedoms they bring, were prophesied long ago. We believe that the constitution was inspired and basically written by the Lord so that His church could grow. How then is it justifiable to vote for a candidate who contradicts the very words written by the Lord? Whether its uncontrollable taxation, burning down a complex in Waco, TX, instituting the patriot act, or even something so simple and overlooked as public schools. All of these things contradicts the constitution and goes against the very words and will of the Lord. When you go on November 2nd ( if you go ), consider the constituion and what the Lord says is right, not what you or your local congressman says is right. Whether you believe socialized medicare is a good idea, or whether you believe gays should not be allowed to marry does not matter. If the Lord wanted medicare to be socialized, don’t you think that would be listed in Article 1 ; Section 8 in the constitution? ( that is the section that specifically states what our government is allowed to do—read it sometime ) If he didn’t believe gays should marry, he would have put that in, also. I am not saying he is fine with gay marriage because I don’t think he likes it much, but he wanted religion and personal moral issues to be kept out of government. Most, probably around 90% of the Saints I have met, are supporting G.W. Bush this year. Ask yourself the question, “Does Bush follow the constitution?” If you cannot answer the question, then read and pray about the constitution, just as you would the Book of Morman. If you believe Bush is the best candidate, than vote for him. If you think we can do better, search other candidates for those who follow the constitution.

  82. October 20, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    While I will accept that the US was prophesied of before its existence, the Constitution (1) was not written by the Lord and (2) is not infallible. This change in premise negates your argument.

  83. Kellen Nebelski
    October 22, 2004 at 11:58 pm

    Every church leader I have spoken to has told me it was basically written by the Lord to make sure the church could grow.

Comments are closed.