Archive for August, 2007

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A Mormon Rip-off

August 29, 2007

by Ann1

In October 1997 Mormon businessman Gene Armold of Westerville, Ohio2 started the company “Purchase Plus Buyers Group.” Over 65,000 people, many of them LDS, invested in the company based on the promise of group purchase savings and big commissions. In September of 2000, six months after Armold had sold the business, the Ohio Attorney General’s office filed suit against the company to force the return to consumers of $100,000,000. The company immediately closed.

Initially, Armold claimed that he, too, was a victim, having lost thousands of dollars from the sale to the subsequent owner. But in October 2004, Armold was sentenced to 45 months in Federal prison for making false statements on income tax returns and failing to report more than $4 million in adjusted gross income for 1999 and 2000. At the trial, it was revealed that the $4,000,000 of unreported income came from Armold’s operation and ownership of Purchase Plus Buyer’s Group.

Mormons were targets of the marketing efforts, and membership was used to drive sales. For example, Armold reportedly told some consumers that he wanted to give families an opportunity to make more money so that mothers would be able to stay home. At some point a stake president in the area spoke to a ward in his stake about the company, saying “It’s inappropriate to take advantage of church membership or knowledge of other members to build a business.”

Are Mormons too trusting? Sometimes. I don’t think this story illustrates any universal truths, but it does illustrate what happens at the confluence of greed and misplaced trust. We ought to trust one another in spiritual matters – we need each other. But where money is concerned, all bets are off.

1Much of the information from this article is taken from the the old Mormon News web site. I hope I didn’t plagiarize…let me know if I did.

2Full disclosure: I used to attend a ward in this town, though I moved out of state before all this happened. I knew some of the principles in the company, and some of them were my friends. Others, I never really liked much.

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A Miraculous Healing

August 28, 2007

This week’s topic: Are Mormons too trusting?

by carrie ann 

Apparently, my husband has the gift of healing computers. I could not get my internet to work all day long…I almost cussed at the effort I was putting into it. Then tonight he just opens it up and behold it works. Thanks, sweetheart.

I was going to do a well-researched post about how trusting and optimistic Mormons can be and back it up with all the newspaper articles that document all the multi-level marketing scams (I mean businesses) and other fraud and scams committed on Utah Mormons but was denied access. I look forward to everyone’s view this week. Good luck.

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Charity for all

August 26, 2007

By Chris

A couple of weeks ago I taught a lesson in Sunday school about charity. I was surprised at how well received the lesson was considering that it consisted of my own thoughts along with scripture references and maybe one or two GA quotes. It was in the preparing this lesson that I realized spiritual gifts and experiences, charity being one of them, are ways of experiencing God and building communities. It is interesting to note that above all things, Paul and Moroni extol the importance of this gift, going so far as to say that without it all else is without worth.

Charity is the gift that I pray for these days. I pray that I will be patient with the hardcore members of my ward who attempt to brow beat others into conformity with their own narrow orthodoxy. I pray that with my charity I will not fight with them, but be able to maintain good feelings towards them and calmly disagree, stating my reasons for seeing things differently without becoming angry, something Jesus warned against in his sermon on the mount.

If Charity is the most important of all gifts, the gift that supercedes all others, I feel that I can spend my life developing this gift and not worry about speaking in tongues, or many other things that may be deemed as superior spiritual gifts.

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Using Others’ Spiritual Gifts

August 24, 2007

by Amri

Situation 1: a woman has found that she has the spiritual gift of healing. It is different than the Priesthood anointing and blessing the sick but healing occurs and it comes from her hands.

Situation 2: a man has the spiritual gift of speaking, of testimony, of helping others’ to feel his testimony. He is invited to speak all the time because of the spirit that he brings. He is gay. Eventually he comes out of the closet.

Situation 3: a woman feels that she has the gift of tongues. Not the comfortable, I learned how to speak on my mission sort of gift of tongues but the kind that needs translating. The kind that does not make sense to use immediately.

 What do we do in these scenarios? I have dear friends that have experienced all three. The first one is only awkward for people because it is a woman. All the way to the 1930s women in the Church could more openly admit and use this spiritual gift of healing but since then we are so uncomfortable with it that she may never be allowed to use this gift. Or she does it in secret with her own children, always wondering if she’s doing what’s right.

The second one is hard because it is hard to distinguish between old ideas of homosexuality being evil (and therefore how could they access a spiritual gift?) and the new ideas in the Church that homosexuality is not evidence of unrighteousness but just is, as long as their sexuality remains unexpressed with others.  Also then, if a gay or lesbian is in a relationship with someone, can they still hold onto their gift? Or does it dissipate because according to the Church they are sinning?

The third one is probably the one we think is the craziest though our history is ripe with people speaking in tongues. Joseph’s mother Lucy had this gift. Some were translated and put into songs and sermons. Now we think it’s associated with religions that are either way off base or dominated by the devil. So what happens to a believing Mormon, with good intentions, that feels she has this gift?

Theoretically, I think the more the merrier. Bring on everyone and anyone that has a spiritual gift, but admittedly some make me feel uncomfortable too. How do we deal with this? If you were a leader in your ward would you encourage someone share their gift even if the details of their gifts is strange or unfamiliar? If you found yourself with a gift you didn’t feel you could openly or easily use, what would you do about it?

I imagine I would fret a lot. And then cry. But beyond that, I can’t tell.

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I Need a Spiritual Gift Card

August 20, 2007

This week’s topic: Spiritual Gifts

by carrie ann

I think the concept of spiritual gifts is beautiful. I like to think about it. We have each been given certain spiritual gifts as a natural consequence of being God’s creations, and all spiritual gifts are his to give. Everything we are capable of comes from his vast imagination. If he can’t imagine it, we can’t do it. He is the master of all talents and abilities. (This blew the mind of the three 11 year-olds we substituted for the other week in Sunday school. They had no idea that God could beat any video game ever made, or that he would be the most amazing baseball player, because he “invented” baseball AND video games.)

Some gifts we are born with, but others we must seek out. I think most of us don’t even realize what our gifts might be, or how we can master them. We learn from Moroni 10 and Doctrine and Covenants 46 that gifts are magnified according to obedience and adherence to Gospel principles. Apparently, we can ask for and work for spiritual gifts we want but don’t naturally have.

There is a certain spiritual gift that I have been “wishing” for as of late, but as I ponder the desire for it I wonder where the line is drawn between seeking spiritual gifts (for which we are encouraged to seek for “with all our hearts”) and sign-seeking (for only “a wicked and adulterous generation seekth for a sign”). Oh, maybe that’s the difference: in my case am I seeking this spiritual gift as a sign for personal direction, not as an indication that the Gospel of Christ is true. I’m not asking a prophet of god to demonstrate his power and authority (like poor Korihor).

Who knows… There was this kid in my high school that was somewhat of a piano prodigy. As I was remarking to one friend on his amazing talent he replied, “Well, you’d play that well too if you practiced 5 hours a day.” So as I sit here contemplating the spiritual gifts I have and the spiritual gifts I want it comes down to this: do I use what I have, am I deserving of what I want, am I willing to work hard to get it? Are spiritual gifts any different than the physical ones?

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Debtor’s Prison

August 14, 2007

I was out of work off and on for almost two years. We had a healthy chunk of debt when I lost my job, but never missed a payment. I think the phrase is “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.” During my unemployed period, our debt doubled.

I now have a wonderful job. I work full time, and make decent money. But at a time when we should be socking aside our second income for retirement, the only thing being retired is our debt. I could go to school, for free, but I have debt. I work full time in service to our debt. I’m trapped by it.

Just like breaking the word of wisdom can lead to addiction and viewing porn can distort our relationships and breaking the Sabbath can take us down a secular, materialistic path with no time for meditation or reflection or rest, debt binds us. We lose options. We are no longer our own masters. We are enslaved. Interest must be paid.

New federal guidelines recommend that the minimum payment on revolving credit now include 1% of the principal balance in addition to interest and fees. Just 1%! And yet, not long after a bank announced that they were implementing those guidelines, they also offered to double the interest if I want to continue to use the account. They have to make up that lost income somehow.

The counsel on debt by church leaders strikes me as truly prophetic. We willingly enslave ourselves for things. Sometimes the things we want are worthwhile, but we are nonetheless enslaved when we go into debt for them.

Stay out. If you’re in, get out. It’s a trap.

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Debt is a Four Letter Word

August 13, 2007

This week’s topic: DEBT

by carrie ann

A couple months ago my brother-in-law got married in the Salt Lake temple. As most of you know, only members of the church in good standing (meaning trying to live the basic standards of “Mormon-y conduct”) may enter the temple, and you need to show the nice senior citizen volunteers at the door you card of recommendation.

When I pulled out my little wallet (just a card wallet with a little space for cash) the little old man said, “My, there’s a lot of cards in that wallet.” I was so taken aback that all I could mutter was “Well, they come in handy.” I did not feel grateful for the little lecture on debt by the temple volunteer. All I could do until the marriage ceremony started and I was distracted by the beauty of the bride and groom was to think of better come backs for that old man. Silly, I know, but I was a little miffed!

No one abhors debt more than me. Really. It freaks me out and makes me panic; that’s why we drive old cars, live in a modest house, and don’t take vacations anymore (we always spent more than we thought we would). But really, to lecture me?… I wanted to retort, “Have you never heard of a DEBIT card? It’s like CASH but more convenient…” I wanted to explain the “new” system of modern banking but knew it would fall on deaf ears, perhaps literally.

I think that man was “just trying to help” because as Mormons, we are discouraged from going into debt. We try to be a self-sufficient people by maintaining a family food storage (which my husband and I have had need of already…), paying fast offerings to help people in our immediate vicinity who are in need, volunteering at the church owned cannery to can food used for the poor and needy locally and worldwide, and staying off of welfare. In times of personal need we are to first look to our own resources (savings or food storage), then to our families, then to our church. Going to the government is discouraged although, hopefully, not vilified (people can collect disability and unemployment while still getting help from the Church, I think).

This is not to say people shouldn’t be concerned. I am concerned when I watch MTV (yes, I watch it while I fold clothes or sew…) and see advertisements for student loans of $40,000 per semester. YIKES! Or when neighbor’s dead dogs receive credit card solicitations (it’s happened, people…). In Utah, don’t we have the highest rate of bankruptcy? I think it’s because Mormons are a little too optimistic. AND they don’t really figure in tithing when being approved for and purchasing new homes and cars. But who knows? During General Conference we are still going to hear about the evils of going into debt unless it is for an education or a first home (and I’m sure they mean a modest first home not a McMansion…). That’s fine. I will be thinking those talks are for OTHER people anyway, not us.

Then my husband and I will have our monthly Naked Financial Summit (the naked is thrown in there just to get us to show up…it rarely ends up that way…) and I get surly and panicky and we speak the only tense words we ever have in our marriage because I bought a beautiful red dress that I absolutely HAD to have even though I had no more money in my personal account but I was going to sell one of the LoveSacs to pay for it, I swear!

So maybe those little old men at the temple door are more “inspired” than I give them credit for.