Update: Todd Coontz Is “Shocked” to Find He Spent a Lot of Money on Himself

January 17, 2018

While I was away, I missed some important developments in the saga of “Dr.” Todd Coontz, the South Carolina-based televangelist I have written about previously. I put the “Dr.” in quotations because, although Mr. Coontz uses the honorific, there is no evidence he has a doctorate in any subject–he has an MS in Agriculture from Texas A&M University (Gig ’em, Aggies!).

The preacher lived a life of luxury. But the feds just indicted him on tax fraud.

In case you don’t remember “Dr.” Todd:

Coontz was the minister of Rock Wealth International Ministries from 2010 to 2014, according to the indictment. He authored numerous books on faith and finances, also including “Breaking the Spirit of Debt” and “7 Most Common Money Mistakes   and How To Avoid Them.”

He also operated the for-profit companies Legacy Media and Coontz Investments and Insurance, according to the indictment.

Specifically, “the indictment charges the 50-year-old Coontz with three counts of failure to pay taxes [perhaps that’s the triple favor] and four counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns.”

I hadn’t realized he stopped being the “minister” at Rock Wealth in 2014. It seems he has relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he runs the Dominion Family Worship Center. As far as I can tell, he’s still running Rock Wealth, but apparently his title there has changed. But I digress.

Some interesting details in the indictment:

William Todd Coontz enjoyed a life of luxury, federal prosecutors contend, by claiming as business expenses the $1.5 million condo he and his family lived in as their parsonage and the luxury vehicles they drove, including three BMWs, two Ferraris, a Maserati and a Land Rover.

He also claimed a Regal 2500 boat, 400 charges at movie theaters, $228,000 in clothing purchases and $140,000 in meals and other entertainment as business expenses with no proof the expenses were for business, according to a federal criminal bill of indictment returned by a grand jury in Charlotte on Thursday.

He spent $21,000 at designer jewelry store David Yurman and $14,000 at Diamonds Direct jewelry store, the indictment said. …

“This is a classic example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ ” U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said in announcing the charges. “As a minister, Coontz preached about receiving and managing wealth, yet he failed to keep his own finances in order. Coontz will now receive a first-hand lesson in ‘rendering unto Caesar’ that which is due.”

I recognize that prosecutors often employ some rhetorical flourishes when announcing indictments, but I have to disagree with Ms. Rose: As I have noted in previous posts, “Dr.” Todd has been pretty open about why he wants your money and what he’s going to do with it. Despite a few throwaway lines about giving to missionary funds, he basically promises to take your money and pray for you in return. Here’s what you get for a $1,000 donation:

As a treasured Partner, you also share in the anointing and financial mantle on Dr. Todd’s life as he agrees to faithfully pray for you, your family, and your finances on a daily basis.

Again, he gets $1,000 to further his “anointing and financial mantle, which apparently involves cars, boats, jewelry, clothing, and a lot of dinners and movies. You get prayers. One would hope he has enough integrity to say a half-hearted “bless my donors” prayer once in a while, but that might be too much to ask for.

Of course, the good preacher denies any wrongdoing:

Coontz “unequivocally asserts his innocence … and will vigorously defend himself against these charges,” his lawyer, Mark Foster of Charlotte, said in a statement. “Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father, and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.

Blaming the accountants is a time-honored tactic when facing tax-evasion charges, but it doesn’t square with the facts of the case:

The indictment accuses Coontz of a check-cashing scheme involving travel reimbursements for speaking appearances and for book sales.

Coontz regularly traveled to speak at various ministries that generally paid him a speaking fee and his travel expenses. The indictment said Coontz hid income from the IRS by claiming the travel as a business expense while using reimbursements as personal income.

To conceal the payments, Coontz told his travel assistant to have the ministries make the reimbursement checks payable to “Todd Coontz” and to send the checks to his personal address. Coontz then cashed the checks, the indictment said.

Coontz also told his travel assistant to bill the churches for a full fare first-class ticket, although the tickets cost “substantially less,” the indictment said.

He is accused of concealing and cashing 102 checks from 2010 through 2013 for travel reimbursements, speeches and books and other products totaling about $252,000. In 2014, he cashed 32 checks totaling about $105,500 that also were not reflected in his accounting records, the indictment said.

Basically, Coontz was double-dipping: claiming business expenses as a deduction at the same time he was being reimbursed–at an inflated rate–for those same expenses; he then deposited the reimbursement checks in his personal accounts without declaring them as income. Sorry, but he can’t claim to be an expert in finance and investing and then say he’s shocked at illegal activities because “trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him.”

I’m not shocked, nor should anyone familiar with this smarmy leech. He’ll have his day in court, and he must be presumed innocent by the judge and jury, but if the government has a paper trail for the charges, he may have to live with “the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of others” from a prison cell.





Applied Apologetics

June 11, 2015

I like to browse Real Clear Politics as a way to get different perspectives on current events and issues. Sometimes I also go to the religion subsection, as I find it fascinating to see how differently people of various faiths view the world. Anyway, this morning I stumbled across an article about Travis Kerns, an Evangelical man who works full-time as a missionary to the Mormons in Utah.

A Missionary in the Heart of Mormonism

I thought I’d share my thoughts about the article.

First of all, I have to admire someone whose faith is so strong that he would dedicate his entire life to it. Specifically, I’m impressed that he ended up being willing to do the one thing he said he would never do:

Local pastors would interview each candidate, and one pastor asked Kerns: “What’s one thing in ministry you’ll never do?”

“I will not be a missionary,” Kerns told him. “I will absolutely not do that.”

The pastor just smiled. “Well, that’s what God is going to call you to.”

I could relate to that, as my teenage self had said the one place I would not want to serve a mission was in South America, but after fasting every Sunday for months, I came to the point at which I would have accepted a call anywhere with peace and happiness. Bolivia was just fine for me. But Mr. Kerns isn’t talking about a two-year interruption of youth but a full-time assignment with his family. That he was willing to give up his plans to teach and instead focus on missionary work is, in my view, quite admirable.

Kerns mentions that he earned a PhD. in “applied apologetics.” I had no idea such a degree was offered anywhere, but then I’m not up on what is taught in Baptist seminaries. I know a few Mormons who would have loved to earn such a degree in defending Mormonism were it offered. He mentions the kind of stuff you would expect: Mormons aren’t real Christians, and Evangelicals have to “deconstruct” Mormonism so that Mormons can understand what real Christianity is. He seems to take a pretty standard approach to Mormonism and Mormons.

But what fascinates me the most about this article is how his views about himself, his religion, and his relationship with the people in Utah are so similar to how many Mormon apologists I know view themselves. He says that Christians “stick out” in Utah in dress and behavior, especially since they are such a tiny minority.

The 50,000 Christians who live in Utah “stick out” — in dress (jeans and a polo shirt instead of the typical suit and tie), appearance (LDS members do not wear beards, so Christian men will often grow them out to be distinctive), and Sunday activities (going out to eat, while Mormons only walk to the meeting house and back). Even a trip to the coffee shop can identify someone as a Christian, since Mormons don’t consume hot drinks like coffee or tea for doctrinal reasons.

Kerns sees this as a good thing: being a Christian in Utah requires a serious faith. Even an ICHTHUS sticker on the back window of a car — something that can seem mundane and trite to Bible Belt Christians — serves as an automatic symbol of brotherhood in Utah.

“Being a nominal Christian is not going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It would be much, much easier to be a nominal Mormon.”

People who know anything about Utah may notice that 50,000 is a very small number of Christians in the state. Kerns tells us:

Seventy percent of Utah citizens are Mormon, while 28 percent claim a non-Christian religion or no religion at all, according to Kerns. Two percent are evangelical.

I don’t know where he’s getting those numbers, but that seems wrong on the face of it. Even assuming that 70% of the state is nominally Mormon and that 2% is Evangelical, how does he arrive at the belief that the other 28% are “non-Christian or no religion at all”? The only thing I can think of is that Kerns is one of those folks who believes that Catholicism is a “non-Christian” religion, which I’ve never understood. (The latest statistics for Utah, for 2013, are 58% Mormon, 16% unaffiliated, 10% Catholic, 7% Evangelical, 6% mainline Protestant, and a number of religions at or below 1%.)

I think Kerns’s skewed numbers are essential to his–and the article’s–narrative: with 98% of the state arrayed against him. he’s one of the very few true believers standing up against the overwhelming numbers and power of Mormonism in Utah, sort of a David against Mormonism’s Goliath.

Indeed, Kerns uses military imagery to emphasize his place as a Christian warrior doing battle with the forces of a counterfeit Christianity:

While Kerns has witnessed significant fruit in the last two years — among the 18 active church planters in the area, there have been more than 100 conversions — the intense spiritual warfare has been the most significant obstacle. Twice a year, in April and October, Salt Lake City hosts the LDS General Conference. As many as 150,000 Mormons flock to Salt Lake City, and the entire religion worldwide turns its attention to the city. Each year, Kerns has watched as the spiritual warfare against NAMB missionaries “ramps up.”

“We knew it would be a reality, but we didn’t know the extent to which we would find it here,” he said. “That’s a significant difficulty that every family in our ministry faces.”

I have to admit I was taken aback and wanted some examples of this “intense spiritual warfare” that he sees at every general conference. Most Mormons I know see conference as a nice, uplifting break from regular church services and a chance to hear counsel from the prophets and apostles. The only hostility I ever saw was against those nasty folks who gather outside Temple Square to heckle and shout at conference-goers.

But for Kerns, the “spiritual warfare” is very real.

In October 2012, the month Kerns accepted the position with NAMB, a tumor started growing on his mother’s pancreas. Exactly a year later, again in October, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died weeks later. The following April, his grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died months later. That same month, the wife of a pastor in Provo lost her daughter late in the pregnancy. She gave birth to a stillborn, despite doctors in the area having no explanation for the complications.

Throughout April and October, many pastors and planters will go through severe bouts of depression and anger for no discernible reason, and the issues will disappear as suddenly as they came once the General Conference ends. The physical manifestation of warfare is real, Kerns says.

Since his job largely involves partnering with extant church planters in the region, Kerns is on high alert during those months, calling each NAMB planter to make sure things are all right. If they aren’t, Kerns will immediately visit to sit and pray with them.

“It’s kinda Sunday School when I say it this way, but we have to make sure we’re prayed-up and read-up,” he said. “Constant prayer, constantly reading Scripture, constantly being around other believers, it’s mutual encouragement.”

I really don’t know what to say about this. I had no idea that anyone in the world believed that LDS general conference was so powerful a tool of Satan that it could cause severe depression and anger, not to mention cancer and stillbirth, among Christian missionaries. At my most devout, I believed that Satan had the power to fill me with doubt or discouragement, but I never thought he had the power to hurt me or my family physically. Maybe there are some Mormons out there who believe as Mr. Kerns does, but I don’t recall having met any.

None of this is meant as criticism, but I find Mr. Kerns’s perspective fascinating, and I’m glad the Southern News profiled him.

Concise Dictionary of Mormonism: O

November 25, 2014

Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood: A covenant between God and men promising sanctification and renewing of their bodies if they attend enough leadership training broadcasts and do their hometeaching.

Oaths: Promises or covenants made to God. Secret oaths are wicked, unless they are made in the temple.

Obedience: Doing God’s will. You can know it’s God’s will through your conscience, or the Light of Christ. When God’s will conflicts with your conscience, you will be blessed for obedience, anyway.

Occupational Status: God is no respecter of persons, so one’s chosen profession is unrelated to spiritual standing. God often prompts members to  enter into professions that will enhance their ability to help build the kingdom. Such professions typically require a professional degree or a large inheritance. Women are encouraged to enter into the profession that is most suited to their talents and desires, that of being a wife and mother.

Official Declaration 1: Known also as “The Manifesto,” the official announcement in 1890 that the LDS church had ceased performing and endorsing plural marriages. This cessation took effect immediately, after an implementation period of some 15 years. Not to be confused with the 1904 declaration, “We Really Mean It This Time.”

Official Declaration 2: The announcement in 1978 that all worthy male members may be ordained to the priesthood. Prior to this date, members of sub-Saharan African descent were barred from holding the priesthood (hereafter referred to as a “blip and fleck of history”). All past justifications for the blip and fleck were merely uninformed speculation, and no official reasons for the practice were ever stated by prophets, especially not Brigham Young, or outlined by the First Presidency of the Church, specifically not in 1949.

Ohio: Church headquarters moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in the 1830s, where the Saints constructed a temple of God. Highlights of this time period include the visit of the Savior and Old Testament prophets to the temple, the establishment of the School of the Prophets, and the commencement of plural marriage with Fanny Alger in the Smith family barn. A failed bank, which church leader Joseph Smith declared had been established by “the word of the Lord,” was unrelated to Mormonism or its leaders.

Oil,  Consecrated: Olive oil that has been blessed for the healing of the sick. Men who hold the Melchizedek priesthood typically carry a small amount of oil in a special vial, which can be purchased from your local Deseret Book.

Old Testament: A collection of writings from prophets of God from the time of Adam until a few centuries before the birth of Christ. The Old Testament outlines the laws given to the ancient Israelites regarding worship and daily life, collectively known as the Law of Moses. These laws were fulfilled, or superseded, by the Atonement of Christ, except for those laws regarding homosexuality.

Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience: According to scripture, God is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing. Latter-day scripture clarifies that God cannot violate the laws of the universe or create something out of nothing; that He is only physically present where His body is; and He is continually progressing in knowledge and glory. In that sense, He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

Onan: The second son of Judah, Onan was killed by the Lord for practicing coitus interuptus to avoid impregnating his brother’s widow. As the Gospel Doctrine lesson manual indicates, Onan was slain for “failure to honor one’s commitments.” This lesson was reinforced in modern times by the appearance of an angel with a drawn sword instructing Joseph Smith to sleep with multiple women or be slain. The prophet faithfully honored his commitments in this regard.

Only Begotten Son of God: Jesus is the only Son begotten (or conceived) in mortal life by God our Father. Prophets have taught that the conception was natural and accomplished “by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers,” but this in no way suggests that sexual intercourse was involved. That is a devlish lie believed only by anti-Mormons and Bruce McConkie.

Opposition: We have been created to learn how to choose between good and evil, right and wrong, and truth and error. We should always adhere to truth, except for truths that are not very uplifting.

Ordinances: Outward acts that have spiritual meaning. Saving ordinances are those ordinances by which members of the church are saved from their sins. Critics mistakenly call these ordinances works, insinuating that Mormons believe we are saved by our own works. This is not true, as we are saved by grace by performing the saving ordinances.

Ordination to the Priesthood: An ordinance done by laying on of hands by which worthy men are given the right to act in the name of God. Often refers to the time at which a boy reaches the age of 12 and is given the right to distribute bread and water to the congregation and go door to door collecting money.  God has given this gift to men to make up for their inability to give birth to children.

Organic Evolution: An evil doctrine inspired by the devil that all life evolved from simpler forms, which is “in direct conflict” with the plan of salvation. According to current lesson manuals, “You cannot believe in this theory of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other.” Therefore, the church has no official position on evolution

Organization of the Church: We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, Public Affairs Coordinators, and the Strengthening the Church Membership Committee.

Original Sin: The heretical belief that all God’s children bear the guilt of Adam’s transgression and will thus be sent to hell unless they repent. Latter-day Saints believe we are responsible for our own sins, except for those born into a specific race or lineage.

Orthodoxy: Whatever the church teaches at the moment.

Outer Darkness: Eternal torment where spirits live without any divine influence or light. Reserved for murderers, apostates, and Democrats.

Decision been made for you, LDS feminists

June 26, 2014

My good friend Bridget Jack Jeffries has a thoughtful and important piece in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Decision been made for you, LDS feminists

In case you don’t know her, Bridget is an Evangelical Christian who graduated from LDS-owned Brigham Young University and is currently studying church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I have always appreciated her insight and perspective into LDS issues.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard a lot of ad hoc rationalizations of why LDS women cannot have priesthood authority, from “men get the priesthood because women have to endure the pain of childbirth” (I’m not making that up) to “that’s just how it is.” Bridget’s piece asks a telling question: If not being able to exercise priesthood authority doesn’t make women inferior, why is it a punishment for men not to be able exercise priesthood authority?

Preaching Grace in Utah

June 18, 2013

Looks like Utah is being invaded again by religious people going door to door preaching their message.

Christian missionaries going door to door in Mormon capital

I thought this part of their brochure was interesting:

“You have recently been told at [LDS] General Conference that if you love God, trust him, believe him and follow him, that you will feel his love and approval,” it says in the brochure. “But what if you are doing all that and still don’t feel God’s love or approval?”

Whoever these people are, they are clearly familiar with Mormon teachings and culture, and frankly, I think this is an effective message. Many people in the LDS church feel unworthy and inadequate, and “don’t feel God’s love or approval.”

The LDS church teaches the concept of worthiness. If you are keeping the commandments, you are worthy to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and receive blessings (which are predicated on obedience). But if you’re like me, you never felt worthy because there was always something else you could be doing but weren’t.

Mainstream Christians talk about worthiness but in a different way. You aren’t “worthy” because you earned it, but because God forgives you. (Jeez, I sound like a commercial for mainstream Christianity.)

I would imagine at least some Mormons out there would find that message appealing because they carry around that burden of unworthiness and guilt. I know I did.

How Not to Talk to Mormons

June 5, 2013

It’s been a while, and for that I apologize. I was laid off from my job in February, and when I landed a job, it was in Northern Virginia. Needless to say, it’s hard to find time to write when you’re moving a household 2000 miles east. Just before we moved, my father had triple-bypass surgery, so I took a week off from packing and went to California to help my parents after the surgery.

I feel like I’m settling in well, so maybe it’s time to write again. I’ve told myself I don’t want to stay focused on Mormonism, so naturally my first post-move piece will be about Mormonism–well, not Mormonism so much, but how people interact with Mormons.

A friend pointed out a piece on Townhall.com (I am not a regular reader there) that was ostensibly an apology by the author, Mike Adams, for asserting in a previous piece that Mormons are “non-Christian.” Here’s the original quote in context:

People often try to call something a marriage when it isn’t. Calling a union between two men or between two women a marriage doesn’t make it one. It’s like embedding the name “Jesus Christ” in the official title of the LDS church and thinking that makes Mormonism somehow Christian. Call a square a triangle if you like but it’s still a square. Your hardheadedness won’t make it become a triangle. It will only make you appear obtuse.

You can guess from the tone of this statement that the apology was anything but an apology.

A little background: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) had always been a fringe movement based in America. After the church abandoned polygamy in 1890 and particularly after the 1903-07 Smoot hearings, Mormonism became much more “mainstream” in its image. Still, it was a relatively small religion until, in the 1960s and 1970s, the church greatly expanded their missionary efforts. The church experienced rapid growth, particularly in developing countries, but also in the United States and Europe. Church membership reached 1 million in 1947 (117 years after the church’s founding) but reached 2 million only 16 years later in 1963. The next million took only 8 years (1971).

The rapid growth seems to have provoked other religious groups to realize that they had some competition. Some of these groups, particularly Evangelical Christians, made a concerted effort to cast the LDS church as a dangerous cult, and polemical anti-Mormon books and films began to appear, such as Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s “Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?” (1963) and Walter Martin’s “Kingdom of the Cults” (1965). Perhaps the most effective attack was the assertion that Mormons were not Christians. By this the anti-Mormons generally meant that Mormons didn’t believe in orthodox, creedal Christianity, which is true, but the intention, as far as I can tell, was to suggest that Mormons rejected Christ entirely. This was an effective strategy, as the accusation stuck. Many times when I was a believing Mormon, people expressed shock that I believed that Jesus was my Savior. The LDS church responded by changing the missionary discussions so that our beliefs about Jesus came at the beginning of the first discussion (previously it had been in the third); a few years later, the church changed its official logo, putting JESUS CHRIST in the center in a larger font than the rest of the logo.

I know, that was more than a little background, but the “non-Christian” accusation is a sensitive subject with Mormons because they believe in Jesus and have faith that He suffered and died to save them from sin. So Mike Adams offended a lot of Mormon readers when he excluded them from the ranks of Christian believers. While I understand his point of view, his “apology” is, well, arrogant and counterproductive.

As I read through his two-page, sarcastic littany of what he considers stupid and evil Mormon beliefs and practices, I wondered why I was so put off by the essay. After all, pretty much everything he listed was more or less true, though presented polemically and without any context. He is right that DNA and archaeological evidence do not square with Mormon claims–I’d say his assertion that such claims have been “refuted” is a bit of an overstatement. The Book of Mormon is clearly textually dependent on the 1769 King James Bible (he uses the word “plagiarism”). He spends a lot of time on Joseph Smith’s plural wives, and he’s right that Smith’s actions were coercive, deceptive, and appalling.

But what does any of this have to do with whether Mormonism is a Christian religion? The list makes it clear that Mike Adams believes Mormonism has been shown to be false. I hate to break it to him, but who is a Christian is not defined by what Mike Adams believes is true or false.

Not until the last four paragraphs does Adams present anything that approaches defining Mormonism as non-Christian. He presents a quote from the King Follett Discourse to show that Joseph believed he would take God’s exalted place. This is either lazy or dishonest because Smith was actually talking about Jesus in that passage to explain what Jesus meant by “glorifying” the Father:

What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory.

From this quote, Adams condemns Mormonism as polytheistic:

I am sorry that Smith’s polytheism is not consistent with John 14:6. I am also sorry that since these are the words of Christ, polytheism cannot be Christian. Moreover, I am sorry, my Mormon friends, but the the words of Christ trump the words of Joseph Smith who will never be God.

Next he says

I am sorry that Mormonism teaches that Christ was not there in the beginning, that god was just a man who became God by following a moral code he did not create, and that we may all become gods by following the same moral code that predates the existence of Jesus. I am sorry that the theological mess caused by Joseph Smith is irreconcilable with the teachings of the Holy Bible.

The problem here is that Mormonism does indeed teach that Christ was “there in the beginning,” so I’m not sure where that’s coming from. The second part of that sentence is more or less true: Mormonism teaches that there are certain “laws” in the universe, and God adheres to them; strictly speaking, it offers no opinion as to whether God created those laws and “moral code” or how God came to be in the first place. So, in his haste to damn Mormonism, Adams is the one causing the “theological mess.”

But I don’t really have any interest in arguing whether Mormons are Christians or not. For the record, I believe that whoever affirms belief in Jesus as the Son of God who died for the sins of humankind is a Christian. Last I checked, Christians believe that people are saved through the atoning blood of Christ, yet folks like Mr. Adams seem to think that there’s also a written exam, and if you don’t check the right doctrines off, you’re on your way south. In short, this grousing about who is a true Christian is about as productive as defining a true Scotsman.

As I thought about it, what was so off-putting was the bare contempt Adams has for Mormonism and for Mormons. I know a lot of conservative Mormons who have hitched their political wagons to the conservative Evangelical movement, considering them to be allies in the fight for freedom and right. But as Adams shows, these “allies” despise Mormons and Mormonism as much as, perhaps even more than they do liberals and atheists. Adams is probably congratulating himself on his bluntness in standing up for truth, but all he has accomplished is promoted rigid dogmatism and alienated people who should be on his side. He reminds me of Joseph Fielding Smith, the LDS apostle who for many years dispensed his opinions as dogmatic “answers to gospel questions”; when I was younger, I thought how marvelous it was that he was so unafraid to speak the truth. But as I got older I realized that there was nothing brave or righteous about spouting opinions as facts.

So, Mike Adams wasted an opportunity and instead sowed division in his own ranks. Hell, even South Park did a better job of building bridges with Mormons than he did. The best way to destroy a political movement is to encourage infighting and litmus tests. Pretty soon you’re left with a few Mike Adamses and no one else.

And for my LDS readers: Rather than get huffy about Adams (that’s my job), maybe you could treat this as a chance to increase understanding and build on common ground. Just a suggestion.


How Romney Will Recover

November 8, 2012

After a long and exhausting–and ultimately unsuccessful–campaign for the presidency, Mitt Romney has made the following to-do list.

10. Catch up on “Pretty Little Liars.” He’s been dying to know if Aria will end up with Jason or Ezra.

9. Commission paintings for his car elevators.

8. Kick Todd Akin’s ass.

7. Find new uses for Ann’s riding crop.

6. Fulfill his dream of opening for Taylor Swift.

5. Do a guest spot on Sesame Street.

4. Lift weights with Paul Ryan.

3. Start a charity for depressed Republicans.

2. Ponder the wisdom of the “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” essay.

1. Challenge the results of the election using “unskewed” results.

Todd’s Triple Favor?

August 1, 2012

More on our buddy, “Dr” Todd Coontz. In case you don’t know who this guy is, he’s a shameless huckster from South Carolina who preys on the gullible to enrich himself. Here, for example, is what he promises in return for a donation of $1000:

As a treasured Partner, you also share in the anointing and financial mantle on Dr. Todd’s life as he agrees to faithfully pray for you, your family, and your finances on a daily basis.

Elsewhere on his web site he tells us that we can achieve “financial freedom” and he will give us “7 keys to success [sic] investing.” You may ask, how’s that working for the good “doctor”?

“Dr” Todd’s full name is William Todd Coontz, and he resides with his wife, Dana, in Aiken, South Carolina. According to Google Maps, Rockwealth Ministries (Todd’s business) is located at 205 Loudoun Dr. Curiously, another business called Ministries Rockwealth is located at 324 Magnolia Lake Ct. It is a rather nice place. A third business, Coontz Investments and Insurance, is located at 3050 Whiskey Dr. A quick search of Aiken County court records finds the following:

2005: A $35,000 judgment against Todd and Dana Coontz.
2006: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for $4,184.52
2007: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for $18,945.81.
2007: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for an unspecified amount.
2008: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for $10,019.95.

Now, it is possible that the William Todd Coontz named in these suits isn’t “Dr” Todd Coontz, but W. Todd is the only Coontz I could find in the public records. If, by some remote possibility, this isn’t the good “doctor,” I apologize.

But how ironic is it that the guy who asking money from you so you can get wealthy is himself struggling to pay off debts?

Don’t worry, “Dr” Todd.” I’ll be happy to faithfully pray for you, your family, and your finances on a daily basis. Just send me $1000.

Concise Dictionary of Mormonism: C

April 16, 2012

Cain: The first murderer, and progenitor of a race of those cursed with black skin and prohibited from holding the priesthood (see Canaanites). Also known as Master Mahan. A modern apostle described meeting Cain as follows: “He walked along beside me for about two miles. His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark.” This account was confirmed by prophet Spencer W. Kimball in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness, which gave rise to speculation that Cain is Bigfoot.

Calling: Any formal assignment from a church leader. Considered to be inspired of God, whether or not you were the first choice or the bishop actually gave it more of a moment’s thought. May often be used as a means of keeping people at their meetings: for example, a less-active member might be asked to hand out programs or ring the bell between meetings. This is effective only if the less-active member is afraid to say no.

Calling and Election Made Sure: To have one’s exaltation in the highest kingdom of heaven sealed irrevocably, meaning that you now have a green light to commit any sin you wish, and it’s covered; you’re still going to the celestial kingdom. Generally, to have one’s CAEMS, one must be invited to a special temple ordinance referred to as the second anointing or second endowment. These ordinances used to be fairly commonplace, but in recent times they have been reserved only for multibillionaires, select General Authorities, and a software developer from Cedar City whose hobby is Book of Abraham apologetics.

Calvary: The place where Jesus was crucified. Erroneously believed by other Christians to be where Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world, whereas it was just the encore after the main even in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Canaanite: Person of African descent cursed with dark skin (see Moses 7:8). Not to be confused with the alleged dwellers of the land of Canaan.

Carnal: Usually refers to sexual intercourse, but when Melissa Lott Willes affirmed that she had “carnal relations” with Joseph Smith, she meant in the sense of “chaste and platonic friendship.”

Carthage Jail: The place where Joseph Smith willingly gave his life after he ran out of bullets and the Masonic Distress sign failed.

Celestial Kingdom: The highest level of heaven where the righteous dwell on “a globe a globe like a sea of glass and fire” (D&C 130:7) in the presence of God. Only heterosexual couples married in LDS temples will be admitted; since 1978, it is open to black people, and they don’t even have to be servants.

Celibacy: An abominable practice of apostate Christianity, almost as evil as masturbation.

Chaldea: The land south and east of Babylon. Also named by Abraham centuries before it existed.

Chapel Mormons: Mormons who believe in the traditional, orthodox teachings of prophets, seers, and revelators; also, those who do not have access to the Internet. These people are often mocked and dismissed as “lazy and intransigent” for following the counsel to read only church-approval materials.

Chariot: A wheel-less platform or litter bearing the king and miniature ceremonial animals. Not an anachronism in the Book of Mormon.

Charity: The pure love of Christ, the highest form of love possible. Needless to say, homosexuals cannot feel this kind of love.

Chastity: Abstinence from sexual activities before marriage and complete sexual fidelity in marriage. (Note: Does not apply if your name is Joseph Smith.)

Child of God: The enlightened teaching that humans are descendants of God who, if they don’t have faith and obey, will be sent to a lower kingdom forever.

Choice: A pernicious euphemism for abortion.

Choir: Another opportunity to spend quality time in the chapel on Sunday.

Chosen: The humbling notion that you have been saved and selected to be born Caucasian, Mormon, and American.

Christ: The only person who ever lived who was better than Joseph Smith.

Christians: Worldly apostates who have corrupted the word of God (usually prefaced with “so-called”). When in public, Mormons use this word to show that they are just like every other church.

Church: The formal organization of believers directed by the priesthood by revelation from God, as well as the religious subsidiary of a multinational corporation.

Church Administration Building: An ornately decorated building south of the Church Office Building that houses the offices of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Off-limits to lesser church members and COB employees.

Church Education System: An organization composed of poorly paid men who teach the gospel in a manner appropriate to teenagers and college students. Used primarily as a means for single members to meet people of the opposite sex.

Church Growth: Throughout its history, the LDS church has experienced dramatic increases in the number of less-active members counted in its records.

Church of Christ: The formal name of the LDS church given by revelation in 1830.

Church of God: The formal name of the LDS church in the early 1830s.

Church of the Latter Day Saints: The formal name of the LDS church given by revelation in 1834.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: The formal name of the LDS church given by revelation in 1838. Apparently, God finally found a name He liked.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: The formal name of the LDS church after correcting God’s faulty grammar.

Church Office Building: A deteriorating 28-story building in downtown Salt Lake City east of the temple. Known primarily for its lavish Christmas banquets and the 26th-floor observation deck, this building also produces most of the publications and policies issued by the church.

Church, Signs of the True: Sound and unchangeable doctrine, such as the eternal truth that there are two–I mean, three members of the Godhead. Continuing revelation, especially when it is needed to contradict an earlier revelation. Moral absolutes, unless God gives you “special revelation” (hat tip to Nancy Rigdon). The same organization as the primitive church, which Jesus organized as “a corporation sole … under and pursuant to Section 18-7-5 R.S.U. 1933.”

Church and State: An important Constitutional principle keeping the government and religious organizations separate. In Utah, this separation is maintained by having legislators meet with LDS church officials before each legislative session; in this way, legislators can establish priorities and positions independently.

Circumcision: The ritual removal of the male foreskin as a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Supplanted in the modern church by the wearing of white shirts and ties, cap sleeves, and CTR rings.

City Creek Center: A large, multibillion-dollar complex in downtown Salt Lake City that includes retail shopping and residential areas. Constructed to follow Jesus’ instruction to the Twelve: “Go ye therefore and build a house wherein in my disciples may buy their jewelry and eat cheesecake.”

Civil Rights: An important principle ensuring the equal protection and rights of all citizens, except for women and gays.

Civil Rights Movement: An organized conspiracy led by Communists to overthrow the natural social and racial order. According to church leader Delbert Stapley, support for the Civil Rights movement would result in punishment up to death: “When I … remember what happened to three our nation’s presidents who were very active in the Negro cause, I am sobered by their demise.”

Civil War Prophecy (See Doctrine and Covenants 87): During the Nullification Crisis in 1832, when the state of South Carolina was arming itself and organizing an army of  thousands of well-armed men, Joseph Smith made the remarkable prophecy that a war would start in South Carolina that would involve the Northern and Southern States, Great Britain, other nations, until “war shall be poured out upon all nations” and would bring natural disasters, death, and destruction  “until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations.” As prophesied, the Civil War did begin in South Carolina, and faithful Latter-day Saints look forward to the coming calamities when they will “be avenged of their enemies.”

Clergy: Scripture is consistent in decrying “priestcraft,” or the  preaching of the word of God for money. Consequently, the LDS church has a volunteer, lay clergy, meaning that no church leaders are paid for their services, except for the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Quorums of Seventy, and mission presidents.

Closing Hymn: The moment at which church members wake up or stop thinking about porn in joyful anticipation of the end of sacrament meeting.

Clothing: Obsession with one’s clothing is derided in the New Testament and Book of Mormon and is emphasized in the modern church.

Coffee: A gateway drug to tea and other vile substances.

College: A place where cherished beliefs and traditions are ridiculed by the learned.

Columbus: A man who was wrought upon by the Spirit of God to sail to the West Indies and exact tribute from the natives at the penalty of torture and death.

Combinations: Shadowy organizations bound together by secret oaths and handshakes; completely unrelated to temple worship.

Commandments: All policies and procedures of the LDS church, including those items given”not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom,” except those involving eating mostly grains and vegetables and limiting consumption of meat.

Common Consent: The privilege of raising your hand to sustain the leadership of the church. Such consent is completely voluntary, though any vote in the negative may result in a visit with church security and/or a disciplinary council.

Conference Report: A published transcription of each LDS general conference. Most Mormons are unaware of the report’s existence, as they receive edited conference talks in the church magazines.

Conference: A large gathering of church members assembled to hear platitudes given through a teleprompter.

Confession: Admitting to God that you have sinned, a necessary step for repentance and forgiveness. In more serious cases, this involves talking to your bishop, and he’s going to want to hear all the details.

Confidential Records: The LDS church has a solemn responsibility to keep records confidential, including from its own members.

Confirmation: The reception of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands after one is baptized. Just remember that one lustful thought can drive the Holy Ghost away forever.

Conscience: The Light of Christ, which is given to all humans to help them discern right from wrong. The greatest test of this life is to conquer the conscience and submit to complete obedience to whatever God asks through His prophets, especially if you’re a teenaged girl in a locked office with Joseph Smith.

Consecration: Willingness to give all that you have for the building up of the kingdom of God. In earlier days, this meant renouncing private property and holding all things in common, but this sounded too much like communism, so the church adopted laissez-faire capitalism as its standard.

Constitution: A divinely inspired document given to humans to usher in the last dispensation. The Constitution is to be held in strict reverence, except for the embarrassing parts about slavery and so forth.

Contention: Any unhappy, unholy, or non-faith-promoting thoughts, which are of the devil. Such thoughts may include doubt, reason, and conscience.

Continuing Revelation: What happens when the church needs to erase an embarrassing doctrine or practice. It helps in maintaining plausible deniability: “That’s not true. We do not have penalties in the temple.”

Conversion: What happens when someone joins the LDS church, whether they know it or not.

Coriantumr: The sole survivor of the Jaredites, a people of whom there is no trace. He lived long enough to warn the Nephites, another people of whom there  is no trace.

Corn: A major crop of the Americas that was unknown to the Nephites and Jaredites.

Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: The formal name of the LDS church since 1917.

Correlation: A program started in 1971 to systematically strip Mormonism of its unique character and doctrines. In conjunction with the consolidated budget program, Correlation has succeeded in its primary goal: turning every LDS church activity into a sacrament meeting.

Council in Heaven: The time in the premortal life when God presented His plan of happiness to His children, which was that we would be sent to earth to see if we would follow God’s commandments, but only after we were made to forget everything we knew about God and His commandments. This plan sounded great to Jesus, who volunteered to be our Savior, and two-thirds of the hosts of heaven. The other third figured it was a losing proposition and went with Satan’s plan, which involved coercion and force, two elements that are completely absent in the modern church.

Council of Fifty: Formally named “The Kingdom of God and His Law, with the Keys and power thereof, and judgment in the hands of his servants, Ahman Christ” in an 1842 revelation, the council was to become the governing body of the entire world. As part of this organization, Joseph Smith was ordained King and Priest. He later prophesied that his as-yet-unborn son, David, would take his place as a latter-day David and be the King over Israel. David Smith eventually had a psychotic break and was committed to an insane asylum.

Council of the Twelve: A group of high-level bureaucrats who hold meetings dressed in Masonic robes weekly and travel the world as “special witnesses of Jesus Christ” (disclaimer: this does not imply any witness, special or otherwise, and cannot be construed as a binding legal statement). Twice a year they gather in Salt Lake City and give talks about little factories and exploding printing presses. Above all else, they must not be criticized, even if the criticism is true. According to an insider, they are not “dodos.”

Counsel: See Commandments.

Courage: The strength to follow instructions without question.

Covenant: Making a solemn promise to God when you’re too young or have missed the opportunity to raise your hand and walk out.

Cowdery, Oliver: Acted as scribe when Joseph Smith didn’t use the plates to translate the Book of Mormon. Told the absolute truth when he said that an angel showed him the plates, but lied viciously when he said Joseph Smith had an affair with Fanny Alger. Accused by Joseph Smith of counterfeiting, theft, and associating “with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property,” Oliver is revered as a faithful witness to the restoration of the gospel.

Creation: The process by which Jesus formed and organized the earth and the universe, assisted by Adam. Modern apologists declare with boldness that prophets, seers, and revelators have been consistently wrong about the processes and timeline of the creation.

Creed: A statement of the beliefs of a religious community, creeds are an abomination in the sight of the Lord. While the Articles of Faith are a statement of LDS beliefs, they are not a creed, because that would make them an abomination.

Cremation: Church leaders have consistently taught that church members should not be cremated, so as to preserve the essential parts of the body for the resurrection. This preservation occurs only when the body is allowed to decay and become absorbed into the earth; clearly, cremation does not allow for this orderly return to the dust of the earth.

Cross: A morbid reminder of Jesus’ death that no true Christian should be associated with.

Crucifixion: The anticlimactic end of the Atonement of Christ.

Cult: According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the word “refers to a minority religion that is regarded as unorthodox or spurious and that requires great or even excessive devotion.” As none of these things applies to Mormonism, it cannot be said to be a cult.

Cumorah: 1) The hill where the Book of Mormon plates were buried in upstate New York. 2) The hill where the Book of Mormon plates were buried in Central America.

CTR Ring: Until one wears garments, this is the outward reminder of one’s covenants with God. Available in many styles and precious metals at your local Deseret Book.

Cultural Hall: A gym used for basketball games, ward potluck dinners, and overflow from sacrament meeting. Bring your own culture.

Cumom: See Curelom.

Curelom: See Cumom.

Curse: Dark skin.

Random Thoughts

April 11, 2012

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that North Korea should not launch its Unha-3 rocket if it wants to provide a “peaceful, better future” for its people. For years, North Korea has experienced serious problems feeding its population. At one point, people were eating grass, tree bark, and any animals or pets they could find. It boggles the mind that a country that cannot or will not provide food for its people can spend its resources building and launching missiles and rockets. Shameful.

Now that Rick Santorum has gone back to his consulting and legal profession (and perhaps back to his job as a Fox News commentator), Mitt Romney is certain to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. A lot of Mormons are expecting the scrutiny of Romney’s faith to be even more aggressive and attacking than it has been so far. My prediction is that the Obama campaign will not directly address Romney’s religion but leave it to other groups and people to go after Mormonism. The Obama campaign had previously indicated it would focus on Romney being “weird,” which many took as a subtle reference to Mormonism, but I think Romney’s biggest problem is that he is a wealthy white guy who seems to have trouble relating to the lives of ordinary Americans. But look for the press to be much more aggressive in their approach to Mormonism. The recent BBC program on Romney and his religion is likely a harbinger of things to come. I don’t expect the attacks to come from the religious right who are likely either to sit the election out or, as Pastor Robert Jeffress put it, hold their noses and vote for Romney. I suppose it depends on whom Evangelicals see as a bigger threat: Mormons or Obama.

I don’t expect Romney to win the election, but if the economy gets worse, all bets are off. If Obama is re-elected, it will validate the view of many conservatives who believe that the GOP can win the presidency only if they nominate “true” conservatives. The last two cycles they’ve nominated moderates in John McCain and Mitt Romney. Starting with Barry Goldwater’s selection of William Miller as his running mate in the 1964 election, the Republican ticket has usually included a “movement” conservative and an establishment moderate. So, in 2008, John McCain chose Sarah Palin to shore up the conservative wing of the party. (I’m guessing he probably regrets that choice, but I digress.) Romney will almost certainly pick a movement conservative as his running mate, as well. But if he loses the election, conservatives will once again insist that the election could have been won by a real conservative who offered, as Phyllis Schlafly put it, “a choice, not an echo.” Thus, in 2016, the GOP will probably nominate someone from the right wing of the party–Rick Santorum, say–and get trounced, unless of course the Democrats nominate someone even more unpalatable.

It’s kind of a shame that the one-hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is being marked by the re-release (in 3-D!) of a really crappy movie.

But at least we know where Homer Simpson lives.