I’m tempted to say that what’s wrong with Utah is Mormons, but it’s not actually the people, it’s their church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or LDS). I now find myself living in the sovereign Country of LDS (known also as Utah).
I have actually lived in Utah before. I attended East Elementary School for Kindergarten and the 6th Grade, I attended Cedar City Junior High for grades 7 through 9, and I attended Cedar City High School for grades 11 and 12. Then I did a year of study at Southern Utah State College (now Southern Utah University). Having spent at least 3 years as a semi-adult in Utah, one would think I’d be better informed about the laws and politics that govern here. Not so, grasshopper!
If you think the laws and politics of your particular piece of the United States of America is screwy, think on these gems that recently came to light for me (and no, these were not miraculous visions):
First, the LDS has forbidden its members to consume alcohol. Personally, I’ve seen many an Elder of the LDS Church riding along the lonely dirt roads that criss-cross the dusty desert that is Cedar Valley, grimly clutching a brown bag tightly twisted at the neck, eyes bleary and driving skills questionable. We called these men Jack Mormons: they stood up in Church every Sunday and gave their Testimony, outwardly appearing holier than thou non-LDS cretins, their guilty secret locked away until their next forage into the land of demons. So, yes, some Mormons drink, and they drink alcohol. Beer is sold in convenience stores, grocery stores, and Wal-Mart. Those establishments are most probably owned by Mormons, but they are not owned by the Church or the State.
If you want to buy alcohol that’s not beer, some queer rules come into play. If an eating establishment has a liquor license, you are not allowed to imbibe any liquor until you have (1) been seated and (2) placed an order for food. If there’s a waiting period for a table and a server, you have to bare-knuckle the time DRY. No quiet cocktail while you patiently wait. Personally, if I have to wait to be seated and served, I want a damn drink (or two). Now, if you do not want to suffer through the restaurant/liquor nightmare, you are free to consume liquor in your own home. Simply visit your local liquor store. As in singular liquor store. Which is owned by…the State. Yes, you read that correctly: State owned, run and operated. The State of LDS alcohol-hating Mormons. Who condemn liquor as evil on one hand and then profit from it on the other by selling it to the heathens. It’s interesting being a heathen here in the Country of LDS.
But the oddities don’t end there. Let me illustrate for you the principle of “separation of church and state” in the Country of LDS. You have heard the phrase “separation of church and state”, haven’t you. You may recall that the Puritans left England in 1609 so they could practice their choice of religion. The 1559 Act of Uniformity required all British citizens to attend services and follow the traditions of the Church of England. The Puritans strongly disagreed with some aspects of the Church of England and so were executed for disobeying the Act of Uniformity when they practiced their Protestant religion. Although King James eventually ended the practice of executing Puritans, the Puritans still found themselves hated by society. The Act of Uniformity is the ultimate combination of Church and State, wherein the ruling body (in this case royalty) governed not only the legal system, but also the spiritual system.
The freedom to practice one’s religion was firmly established by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ” Neither the Constitution nor any other founding document of democracy in America contains the words “separation of church and state,” so where did the phrase originate?
In 1801, the Baptists heard a rumor that the Congregationalist denomination was about to be made the National denomination, which distressed the Baptists, as it should have. After firing off a letter to President Thomas Jefferson voicing their concern, Jefferson wrote back on January 1, 1802, assuring them that “the First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state.” His letter explained that the First Amendment prevented the government from establishing a national denomination; further, it protected the church from government control. Later the Supreme Court identified potential activities, when occurring under the name of “religion,” allowing government interference, such as human sacrifice, bigamy or polygamy, the advocation of immorality or licentiousness, etc., since such activities were deemed to threaten public peace and safety. Bottom line: The Government would not interfere with orthodox religious practices.
And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander: if religion is protected from government control, the government is protected from religious control. This is why there is such a hullabaloo about the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, President George Bush’s promotion of his “faith-based initiative” along with his overtly religious tone, the claim that “America is a Christian nation founded on Christianity,” and whether “In God We Trust” should appear on our money, as well as whether “God” should be referenced in federal oaths, and other things of this nature. Throw into our melting pot of a country that religions other than Christianity exist, are orthodox, and are practiced by millions just to make the hullabaloo a bit louder.
In the Country of LDS, however, there are no prohibitions against mingling church and state. A case in point is a government-produced, government-funded and mailed newsletter for Enoch City that arrived in our mailbox a few days ago.
The short story is that the City of Enoch has decided to raise taxes, “Because our city has a shortage in excess of $350,000 to cover just the basic services that are now provided, it has necessitated the need for an increase in property tax to offset this shortfall. Our city can no longer afford to use monies from their savings account to cover this shortfall.” Understandably, many Enoch citizens are unhappy about this and started a petition to put the budget on hold at the 2012/2013 limits until November 2015. The governing body of Enoch, our City Council Members, issued an “URGENT NOTICE FOR ENOCH RESIDENTS!!” warning them away from this petition.
Councilman Mike Olenslager went so far as to go on record with the following admonition:
With all the contention going on about the tax issue there are a lot of lies being spread on social media. We all know how to find and know the truth of anything if we seek out the answers in the scriptures and find counseling from our spiritual leaders. Lies and hate destroy neighbors and undermine the love and peace we strive for in our community. Please seek out the truth before you judge.
Essentially, a government official, in an official government communiqué, is telling us that the answers to the issue of raising taxes in Enoch, Utah, is spelled out in the the scriptures of God from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the Holy Bible and Book of Mormon. I’ve read both of these pieces of literature and, surprisingly for Councilman Olenslager, none of the authors of these works of literature had the foresight to insert a word or two about raising taxes in Enoch City in the year 2014. However, I am certain that the spiritual leaders of the Country of LDS are surely able to “counsel” anyone unwise enough to let someone else tell them what to think.
And what about that dipping into the City’s savings account? Why are they dipping into a savings account that is meant for emergencies, not “basic services”? What exactly is going to be lost if property taxes aren’t raised? Here’s the list provided by the URGENT NOTICE:
- Snow removal and road maintenance
- Remediation of drainage problems
- Street lights
- T-ball, coach pitch, soccer, and other recreational activities
- Fourth of July fireworks and Fun Run
- Public safety and animal control
In my humble opinion, parks, t-ball, coach pitch (whatever the hell that is), soccer, other recreational activities, fireworks and a “fun run” are not basic services. Neither is “chip sealing,” where a thin film of heated asphalt liquid is sprayed on the road surface, followed by the placement of small “chips,” when less expensive crack sealing will suffice, rewarding residents with credit on their utility bill for winning “Yard of the Month,” funding a “beautification day” to collect yard debris and weeds, and using a government newsletter to send a religious message.
But, of course, this is the sovereign country of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and you just don’t question or argue with God. Unless you’re a heathen and a pagan. We question and argue every chance we get!
So if you’re living in this “state is church/church is state” soup and it ain’t to your liking, be ready to put plenty of salt (and probably a bit of lemon) in your bowl or, better yet, eat a lot of wholesome, green salad (like the faeries).