Has the Mormon Moment Arrived in American History?
At the conclusion of the impeachment trial, the vote was taken, and all Republicans voted in unison to keep Trump in office. There was however, one notable exception. US Senator Mitt Romney was the single Republican to vote to convict Trump on charges of abuse of power.
The media has chalked this up to merely a personal tension between the two men. The reality is, however, that in his longstanding tension with Trump, Mitt Romney represents more than himself. Romney, as a US Senator from Utah, represents the Mormon Axis. This is a center of power within the US government apparatus that leans conservative but very much has its own agenda, competing with other forces within the Republican Party, as well as within the FBI and CIA.
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The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), commonly called “The Mormons” in US vernacular, functions as a powerful “Mystery Cult” within US society. While Mormon missionaries knock on doors throughout America proselytizing their faith, they are very reluctant to have open conversations about theology. Recruitment is conducted on the basis of presenting LDS as a friendly, happy community with prominent and influential members. The beliefs and concepts of Mormonism, though widely public on the internet, are considered to be internal and not for discussion with non-believers. This has been especially true after TV programs, like South Park, and Broadway musicals like “The Book of Mormon” subjected LDS theology to emphatic ridicule.
Mormonism began in 1820 when a treasure hunter and alcoholic named Joseph Smith claimed to have a vision in the US State of New York. In his vision, Smith reported that he was made aware that he was a prophet and informed instructed that all existing Christian churches were false. Eventually, Smith claimed to have been visited by Angels, and presented with a book of golden plates, and giving testimony of events that took place on the continent of North America prior to European settlement. Mormonism preaches that Native Americans are actually a lost tribe of ancient Jews, and that Christ visited what is now the United States centuries ago.
In its early years, one of the principal beliefs of the Latter Days Saints Movement was that polygamy was an acceptable practice. As a result, LDS adherents were constantly forced to move further westward, as its members frequently faced legal consequences for violating US marriage laws. The founder, Joseph Smith was killed by a hostile mob in 1844, but the faith continued, moving further westward and eventually establishing Salt Lake City, Utah as its headquarters.
As Utah became a US territory, tensions with Washington DC were frequent. Federal troops were often stationed in Utah, and many Mormons were jailed for polygamy. In 1890, the LDS church officially abandoned polygamy. Utah was ultimately granted statehood in 1896.
Mormonism existed as a kind of fringe religion in US society, but began to greatly expand during the Cold War. Starting in the 1950s, Mormons emphasized the centrality of the United States in their theology, and joined Anti-Communist organizations such as the John Birch Society. As a result of their alliance with the Republican Party and anti-communism, LDS adherents became increasingly accepted and respected in conservative circles.
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Though Mormons had presence in the FBI from its earliest days, in the 1970s after Hoover’s death, their influence y greatly expanded within the bureau. The FBI currently had a recruitment program specifically for LDS members. According to Business Insider:
“Mormon missionaries are valued for their foreign language skills, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and respect for authority.”
In the 1970s, the Mormons also became very prominent within the CIA. An article from Atlas Obscura cites a report on the CIA: “One 1975 report on the CIA, for instance, included the tidbit that one Mormon-owned PR firm made some “overseas offices available…as cover for Agency employees operating abroad.”
As Mormons collected data for the CIA, and helped provide cover for agents operating abroad, their international missionary work also grew greatly expanded. The religious sect expanded far beyond Utah, with new converts across the world.
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Romney’s decision to cast his vote in favor of removing Trump seems to indicate that the tensions between US President Donald Trump, and a powerful faction within the US intelligence apparatus are still ongoing. . . .
Interestingly, in December, leaks about massive tax fraud facilitated by the LDS Church leadership found their way to America’s front pages. in December. Furthermore, the embarrassing revelation that Romney had set up an alias twitter account in order to praise himself also found its way to the headlines.
It’s very clear that the political influence and power centered around Salt Lake City has a very uncomfortable relationship with the commander-in-chief. A kind of back room conflict is taking place, not between political parties or even between deep state entities, but between the LDS faction and its rivals.
It will be hard to predict how exactly this plays out, especially as the 2020 elections get closer.
Indeed, how will this play out? The Mormons have positioned themselves to be a powerful community not just within the united States or in North America but globally, whether one is speaking with regard to economics, spying/data-hoarding, or to religion.
A Rising Economic Power
Some Mormons — and plenty of others — were appalled to witness their church build a $1.5 billion mall in downtown Salt Lake City and hear their prophet proclaim, “Let’s go shopping.”
Isn’t religion, they argued, supposed to be about feeding the hungry and clothing the poor? How is selling Tiffany jewelry, Nordstrom cocktail dresses and luxury condos any part of a Christian faith?
Such critics, though, fail to understand Mormonism, says historian D. Michael Quinn. The American-born movement has always seen its mission as serving both the spiritual and physical needs of its people. It doesn’t distinguish between the two.
“It’s as spiritual [for Latter-day Saints] to give alms to the poor,” Quinn told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2012, “... as it is to make a million dollars.”
On that last score, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been wildly successful, says Quinn, author of the newly published “Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth & Corporate Power.”
The church, launched in 1830 in upstate New York with six members, counts nearly 16 million members worldwide — and untold billions in assets.
It wasn’t alway so. At one point, the federal government confiscated all its properties, withholding them for nearly a decade. Thereafter, the Utah-based faith endured cycles of near bankruptcy every 20 to 30 years until it finally found its economic footing in the 1960s.
Quinn estimates — and estimating is about the best even a top-notch researcher can do — the church took in about $33 billion in tithing in 2010, based on a model of projected growth rates that followed a consistent pattern starting in the 1950s. It earns another $15 billion annually, he says, in returns on its profit-making investments. (The Bloomberg Businessweek piece from five years ago cited an investigation pegging the LDS Church’s worth at $40 billion.)
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Utah herself is intent on becoming a leading center for technological innovation and entrepreneurs:
Utah Sen. Mike Lee is pushing his S.386 green card giveaway bill, in part, because the state’s political and business establishment is betting imported Indian graduates will jump start the state’s version of Silicon Valley.
Their version of Silicon Valley is called by them Silicon Slopes:
Spanning from Logan to St. George, Silicon Slopes is a state-wide organization and the official moniker of Utah’s startup and tech community. Thanks to the Silicon Slopes community, Utah is a vibrant, diverse, global innovation hub with some of the greatest entrepreneurs and companies in the world.
All the Data One Could Need
A crucial part of the future tech-centered economy is access to data. Here also Mormon Utah is well-seated. It is home to two major information centers, the largest National Security Agency data collection center and the Mormon Church’s genealogy library:
Welcome to the Utah Data Center, a new home for the NSA's exponentially expanding information trove. The $1.7bn facility, two years in the making, will soon host supercomputers to store gargantuan quantities of data from emails, phone calls, Google searches and other sources. Sited on an unused swath of the national guard base, by September it will employ around 200 technicians, span 1m sq ft and use 65 megawatts of power.
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Deep in Mormon country between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, nestled on the outskirts of Bluffdale (population 7,598), it was designed to be largely anonymous. Instead, after Guardian disclosures of data-mining programs involving millions of Americans, the Utah Data Center provokes an urgent question: what exactly will it do?
The NSA says it will not illegally eavesdrop on Americans but is otherwise vague. Its scale is not in doubt. Since January 2011 a reported 10,000 labourers have built four 25,000-sq ft halls filled with servers and cables, plus an additional 900,000 sq ft of space for technical support and administration. Generators and huge fuel and water tanks will make the site self-sustaining in an emergency.
Outside experts disagreed on the centre's potential. Some said it will just store data. Others envisaged a capacity to not just store but analyse and break codes, enabling technicians here to potentially snoop on the entire population for decades to come.
William Binney, a mathematician who worked at the NSA for almost 40 years and helped automate its worldwide eavesdropping, said Utah's computers could store data at the rate of 20 terabytes – the equivalent of the Library of Congress – per minute. "Technically it's not that complicated. You just need to work out an indexing scheme to order it."
Binney, who left the agency in 2001 and blew the whistle on its domestic spying, said the centre could absorb and store data for "hundreds of years" and allow agencies such as the FBI to retroactively use the information.
He said the centre will likely have spare capacity for "brute force attacks" – using speed and data hoards to detect patterns and break encrypted messages in the so-called deep web where governments, corporations and other organisations keep secrets. There would be no distinction between domestic and foreign targets. "It makes no difference anymore to them."
James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, said the public had yet to grasp the significance of Utah's data-mining. "It's basically a hard-drive. It's also a cloud, a warehouse. It'll be storing not just text and audio but pictures and video. There's a lackadaisical attitude to this. People pay no attention until it's too late." Bamford wrote a cover story about the centre for Wired last year.
Brewster Kahle, a co-founder of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit that hoovers up knowledge in a digital equivalent of the library of Alexandria, said technology facilitated near-ubiquitous snooping. "If one had the opportunity to collect all the voice traffic in the US it would cost less than the Pentagon spends on paperclips. Storage these days is trivial, it's not a problem."
A rack of servers the size of a fridge can store 100 TV channels' annual output, said Kahle. "What's slow to dawn on people is that this level of surveillance is technologically and economically within our grasp.”
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The Family History Library at Temple Square is the largest library of its kind and attracts visitors from all over the world to come find information about their ancestors. Founded in 1894, the library offers records and genealogical data for over 3 billion deceased ancestors from around the globe. Experienced research specialists and trained volunteers provide a unique and personal experience to help you discover your ancestors and grow your family tree.
In a world where surveillance capitalism, biotechnology, and such like are poised to play a dominant role in society, the Mormons will have a deep well of resources to draw from in order to prosper.
A New Religion
The financial and data collection resources of Mormon Utah already make it a formidable power, but moreso than this is the religious vision of the Mormon Church that all this rests upon. Prof Harold Bloom in his helpful little book on religions in the States (The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1992), says this of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith:
Joseph Smith did not excel as a writer or as a theologian, let alone as psychologist and philosopher. But he was an authentic religious genius, and surpassed all Americans, before or since, in the possession and expression of what could be called the religion-making imagination (pgs. 96-7).
So convinced is he of this that Prof Bloom writes later,
The more deeply I study the Mormons and meditate upon their peculiar appropriateness for the American spiritual climate, the more I become convinced that someday soon they will be the Established Church of the American West, even as the Baptists are the Catholic Church of our South (p. 263).
This is getting to the heart of the matter. Smith and the Mormons are very dedicated to converting the world; how much so is captured in these passages:
The entire burden of Joseph Smith’s prophecy was that the Kingdom of God was destined to be set up in America, and that only a Chosen People could rely upon themselves enough to be able to organize the Kingdom. Of all Joseph Smith’s titles and functions, of all his ambitions and aspirations, only one ultimately was overwhelming. Shortly before his death in 1844, Smith was crowned king of the Kingdom of God in a secret ceremony. A third of a century later, just before his own death, Brigham Young may have undergone the same esoteric ritual, as did John Taylor after him (p. 89).
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For Joseph Smith the dream [Daniel 2:44-5, W.G.] indeed was certain, and the interpretation sure: the mountain was the Mormon Kingdom of God, Joseph the prophetic stone, and the great image to be broken was the United States of America, to be followed in time by all the sinful kingdoms of the world, that is to say, every government everywhere (p. 90).
Just how confident Mormons remain in their ability to ‘break the great image’ of the American Empire that rules from Washington City is illustrated by their renewed effort to all but decriminalize polygamy in this session of the Utah State Legislature:
After years of confrontation with officials in Washington City over polygamy, Utah looks like she is the one who will finally emerge victorious in that battle. The consequences of this act for the Mormon community cannot be understated. Polygamy is the central doctrine in Mormonism that allows for the deification of man: ‘Plural marriage was to be the secret key that unlocked the gate between the divine and the human’ (Bloom, p. 105).
The era of Mormon compromise with the American Empire appears to be coming to an end. And with robust growth in the membership of the Mormon Church over the previous decades, with even more growth predicted by demographers, one may expect the assertiveness of the Mormons in Utah and across the western States to continue to grow.
All told, Sen Romney’s vote may not have been the empty, futile gesture that some have called it. On the contrary, it may have been a geopolitical tremor, a foreshadowing of an earthquake that will help bloodlessly fracture the American Empire into smaller, homogenous cultural regions and allow the multipolar world to take further shape.