Archive for the Mormonism Category


There is a Mormon Church only two miles from this house. It escapes me why the Mormons elected to build a large church in Short Hills, New Jersey. As far as can be determined, their sect has a very limited appeal to residents of Summit, Livingston, Millburn and Short Hills. But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been with us for several years. On Sunday mornings, it is filled by people from all over Northern New Jersey. In the afternoon service, the church is filled again by Latinos coming mainly from Newark and its suburbs. The Mormons would like to be called Latter Day Saints, but that name has not caught on, at least in this area, where there are many affluent Catholic, Jewish and Protestant residents.

While the church near here was being established, Mormon representatives would appear regularly on our street and on our doorstep. They were always polite, but their persistence was something to behold. It has never fallen to me to attend any kind of service in the Short Hills Mormon Church, which it is understood to be called a “Stake.” But that is not to downgrade them in any way; my attendance in thousands of other churches has not occurred either.

In former times, the Mormon Church encouraged men to take as many wives as could be supported by the one Mormon man. In most cases, the multiple wives lived together in a communal arrangement with the husband. There were elaborate schemes to provide individual attention to the wives. The wives all seemed to have their own rooms and the husband tried to divide his time equally among them.

But multiple marriages were outlawed by the church as a condition for admitting Utah to the United States. But while the church officially frowns upon multiple marriages, many men practice it openly today and no one calls the cops. Senator Hatch of Utah is all wound up about trying to get Bush’s Right Wing judicial nominees through the Senate Judicial Committee, but he has never spoken out about multiple marriages.

In December, 2003 we are told by the New York Times and by other publications, that the Mormons are conducting posthumous baptisms of dead Jews. Why the Jews must be a church secret. According to Mormon theology, all people, living or dead, possess “free agency”. Apparently, Mormons have used that theological doctrine to include dead members of the Jewish faith in baptismal rites, whether it was requested or not while the person was living. No instances of such requests come to anyone’s mind. Many holocaust victims have been given Mormon baptismal rites with absolutely no indication that the victims knew anything about such a practice or even about the Mormon sect.

Holocaust victims were only part of the story. The philosopher Theodore Herzl as well as David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, have had the Mormon postmortem baptismal rites, as has the teenage diarist Anne Frank.

For years, Jewish leaders have attempted to make the Mormons stop this practice. The Jewish leaders thought they had an agreement that the postmortem baptisms would stop. But they seem to continue in spite of past agreements to cease and desist.

My sentiments are all with the Jews on this subject. If the Mormons can baptize people against their will after postmortem exercises take place, what is to keep them from baptizing a complete non-believer like me. After all, my home is only two miles from their large church. Perhaps my remains, if any, will escape the clutches of the Mormons only because the LDS crowd will conclude that my surname is not Jewish. But my first given name is Ezra, the scribe of Jerusalem. But that is a thin reed to hang my hat on. Allstate sells all kinds of insurance. Perhaps they will insure me against becoming a Mormon after my transformation to an angel takes place. It is hoped that the Umbrella policy from Allstate may cover that distressful outcome. We will have to see.

During my Army enlistment in World War II, many people told me and my colleagues that you are here to shut up, and to say “Yes Sir.” That was always followed by the inviolable American military thought that in this Army, you don’t get paid for thinking. Old time officers and enlisted men gave me that advice and after a while, it sunk into my brain. It has been 59 years since my discharge and that nugget remains in my aging brain.

One of the facts that causes me to think about not getting paid to think, is the proliferation of retired Colonels and Generals that may be found on many news programs. CNN has a standby Colonel called Patrick Lang. He pops up regularly and seems to comment on any military subject.

Colonel Lang (Retired) and all the other military commentators seem to have spent many years in the Armed Forces of the United States. From my observations, many of them seem to have spent several decades avoiding thinking, hence, the upward promotions. In my view of things military, the long-termers who have kowtowed their way to field rank, Colonels and above, have gone without thinking for much of their adult lives. If anyone thinks this is a harsh assessment, that person should remember that ANYONE who opposes the official military line is labeled a troublemaker and he gets no more promotions or, most often, he is told to prepare for discharge.

It happened to General Zinni who showed no enthusiasm for Bush’s war in Iraq. It happened to General Wesley Clark for something he did back in Kosovo. The military services want to hear a resounding “Yes Sir” to every proposition.

When a suggestion came to me, it was expressed very early in my military service. Calling that service a career would be a misleading misnomer. As soon as the innocent suggestion was voiced, the drill sergeant let me have it. He said, “You are here to shut up” and to say “Yes Sir” at appropriate intervals. It was my conclusion then, and it is my conclusion now dozens of years later, that military men are not paid to think. None. Yes Sir is how it is done and why the military crowd is so deficient in intellectual achievements.

Newsweek magazine in its year end edition had thumbnail sketches of prominent personalities. Many of them shown in the Newsweek summary were members of the current Bush administration.

The thumbnail sketch of Condoleezza Rice said simply, “In over her head.” Most impartial observers and many impartial Republicans have long since reached the same conclusion. She is used now by Bush to carry unfavorable news to Cabinet members, as was the case when James Baker was sent to Europe to ask France, Germany and Russia to ease Iraq’s debts to them. Ms. Rice was told to convey the unpleasant news to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Bush did not speak to Powell ahead of time.

The fact that Miss Rice is in over her head comes as no surprise to anyone. She has spent her life as an academic. She has no military background and none in international diplomacy, both requisites for holding the job as National Security Advisor. Can anyone imagine Condoleezza knocking the heads of two arguing generals together? Or reconciling a dispute between warring factions in the State Department? Or by telling Ariel Sharon that there will be no more Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory? Not on your life.

The fact that Miss Rice is in well over her head comes as no surprise at all. The fault has to lie with the man who gave her this impossible assignment – for her – to carry out.

There is a second member of the administration in the same trouble as Condoleezza. This is a holder of a cabinet level appointment as Secretary of Agriculture. Anne Veneman now has the unhappy assignment to tell the world that eating American beef is perfectly all right – regardless of the mad cow disease found recently in a meat packing plant.

Ms. Veneman is in over her head because no one believes her. They are well advised to have their distrust of her injunctions to eat beef right now. The Secretary of Agriculture has no record of walking in a barn or milking a cow or nursing a sick calf back to health. Her hands were never soiled by farm work.

Quite to the contrary, when it came to soiled hands, Ms. Veneman received her cabinet appointment because she was a lobbyist in the agricultural sector. Her job was to ask or persuade government officials to rule favorably on her propositions or to get her bosses to oppose unfavorable government rulings. That’s what lobbyists do. She spent no time wrestling steers or planting a wheat crop. She is and was a lobbyist when this administration rewarded her by giving her the job as Secretary of Agriculture.

When a Nobel Prize scientist tried to get an appointment with her, she turned him down until he got the ear of Karl Rove, Bush’s political guru to intervene. When the scientist eventually saw Ms. Veneman, he warned her about what was going to happen with respect to mad cow disease. She rejected his advice which was delivered last summer.

And so we have two women who plainly are in over their heads in this administration. Bush has not seen fit to get qualified replacements, so we are left to muddle on through. The only response from Bush is to advise us to eat more beef. The answer in this situation is to consider a meat-free vegetarian diet and to hope that the Defense Department or the Department of State have no sticky mess to sort out anytime soon.

In the end the Rice-Veneman affair leads to a recall of an incident last Summer. A woman was found wandering around the parking lot of a supermarket here in New Jersey. She said she had forgotten where her car was parked. When asked is it was a Ford or Chevy or a Mercedes, her wonderment did not improve. She said that her car may have been an Adidas. Rice and Veneman are in the same boat as the owner of that disappearing Adidas. They don’t have a clue.

During a long career with AT&T, this old geezer had an opportunity to get to know the behind the scenes operations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and New York. All things considered, the people who staffed AT&T traffic operating rooms were among the least known and most generous people imaginable. It showed in many ways. Here is one case of the generous behavior of several of them.

In 1953, the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society said there was a baby girl available to be taken to a permanent home. Their response was in answer to our application for adoption. That was on a Monday. The baby was in a foster home on the South Side of Chicago and she was to be picked up early on Thursday morning.

Ordinary protocol calls for mailing out announcements of the birth of children. Ah, but finding a card announcement of the impending adoption was a completely different story. At the time, the largest department store in Chicago was Marshall Fields. Their card selection was enormous and it was located below the main floor – that is to say, in the basement.

Pawing through all the cards announcing the births of children was a bit of a challenge, but there was no card dealing with the adoption of a child. None at all. When the going got very disappointing, a woman from the #1 Chicago Traffic Office came over to see about what her colleague was doing on Monday night at Marshall Fields, the evening when Chicago women looked for bargains. The #1 Office in Chicago was where my employment took had brought me. The colleague–bargain hunter was Betty Kruchten. Betty looked at the cards herself and agreed there was nothing for the adopting of a baby. She suggested that we should prepare a card and forget about store bought cards. Which is what we decided to do. It is good that it had Betty Kruchten’s approval.

On Thursday morning, December 8, 1953, it was necessary to drive from our Near North Side flat, through the downtown congestion to travel some 70 blocks south to the foster home. It may have been 10AM or 10:30AM when the baby was safely deposited back in the flat on California and Lunt, not far from Wrigley Field. By the time the train came and deposited its passengers (including me) on Franklin Street in downtown Chicago, the time must have been 11:30AM.

It was my intention to go to an office shared with Dick Nichols and an old timer named Kess Kessler. The adoption was never a secret and it was never intended to be a secret. On the other hand, it was my intention to tell anyone who asked about it. If they didn’t ask, they didn’t get told. That was my intention. It was the intention of all the women and the three men in the #1 Office that there was going to be a celebration with gifts galore for Maureen, the new baby. My intention had nothing to do with it.

The gifts for Maureen were piled all over my desk and chair. Dick Nichols was accused, by me, of piling his Christmas gifts on my desk. He denied that allegation. It was necessary to borrow a car from Otis Dodge, the Division Plant Superintendent, to get all the gifts taken to our North Side flat.

The spur of the moment generosity of the Chicago people was overwhelming to me. My thanks to the gathered assemblage was taken well, but hearing thanks was not uppermost on their minds. Those #1 Traffic Office women wanted to know about the baby. So they heard what little there was to know. Adoption agencies, even as reputable as the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society were, are eager to protect the names of the natural mother and the father, so we did not know a lot about the baby’s background.

It took me awhile to figure out that Betty Kruchten was the instigator of the gift giving celebration. Betty did not work for me. Her job had nothing to do with my efforts. Mobilizing all these women into buying all those gifts was an act of love for an adopted baby. Nothing less than an act of love.

This sort of conduct is typical of Traffic women. Many of them lead fairly lonely lives. Less than half, by my estimation, were married. But mention an adoption, and they were all there. There was Mildred Simon who lost her lower legs in a childhood accident. Mildred had prosthetic legs and in all the time she was known to me, no sound of discouragement ever escaped her lips. She wore make up and being around her was an inspiration. Beatrice Bell, the office manager, a spinster well into her 60’s was among the leading celebrants.

Those people in Chicago had known me for less than a year. It made no difference to them. After the gift giving on December 8, it was my thought that things would quiet down. However, for the rest of my stay in Chicago, from time to time, women would drop by my office and say, “I saw this little dress and it is something for you to take to Maureen.” My directions were clear; take the dress to old Blondie.

Harry Livermore, the Chicago Division Traffic Superintendent during my tenure, answered my call during the New Year’s holidays. We agreed that Chicago, the home of Al Capone, had some wonderfully generous citizens as well. All those people will always be in my memory, starting with Betty Kruchten.

January 7, 2004


Stuffing one’s cabinet full of incompetent people seems to be a bona fide pastime for Republican presidents. Pop is probably rolling in his grave with these Trump picks. Each one could get an essay, easy. Let’s put a Republican mega-donor billionaire who doesn’t believe in public education in charge of the Department of Education. Let’s put Rick Perry in charge of the Department of Energy — coming after a nobel prize winner and MIT an professor — when he can’t even remember that the department exists. Or put the fucking CEO of Exxon in charge of the State Department. Why not have a white nationlist as chief of strategy while you’re at it?
I’d love for Condy and Powell to come back at this point. Good god.

On a lighter note, Pop’s coworkers were sweethearts. I’m sure that the impromptu baby shower meant a whole lot to them as they were just getting started with kid #1.


It is not a general rule of mine to tout a Mormon radio program. It may have been a product of the Great Depression that influenced all American citizens from 1929 until 1941. There were not a lot of things to tout. Nearly all of my similarly aged colleagues agree that the two major influences in their lives were the Depression and World War II.

There is an old expression of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It may not be a perfect expression for the fact that this music lovers ear was first attracted to the Mormon broadcast in 1936 on Sunday mornings. My work at service stations (filling stations) in Missouri somehow permitted listening to the Mormons on radio as work took place. So the sow’s ear in my case, permitted me to hear perhaps the greatest choir in the country and to hear three or four minute essays delivered in elegant, mid-western tones by Richard L. Evans, an Apostle of the Latter Day Saints Church.

The program was called Music and the Spoken Word. It was called The Mormon Hour, even though it ran only one half of an hour. In Mormon terms, Evans was called an “Elder.” A summary of the accomplishments of Elder Evans is contained in these two sentences:
“Elder Evans is best known to the world as the voice of The Spoken Word, a part of the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Broadcast. Elder Evans wrote, produced and announced the coast-to-coast radio network program from the Salt Lake City Tabernacle from June, 1930 until his death in 1971.”

Each Sunday, the Mormon program would be brought to us by CBS radio. The “music” part of the program was offered by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir consisting of 360 voices. Their ages range from 25 years to 60 years. The choir was wonderfully disciplined and performed under the direction of James Conde, who also played the magnificent organ at appropriate times. And now there is an orchestra of 110 volunteer members which appear on the program.

The Mormon hour program was written and announced by Elder Evans. My memories, which are now 68 years old, tell me that the first words from Elder Evans mouth were:
“From the Crossroads of the West, we bring you Music and the Spoken Word.”

Then Evans would identify the choir and conductor Conde and finally, himself. Then he would say:
“From within these walls, we bring you Music and the Spoken Word”.

The music produced by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was so great that listeners had to listen. There were no tools dropped or flat tires bounced at the filling station during the choir music.

About half way through the broadcast, Elder Evans would deliver his essays which contained not one word of Mormon theology. Here are a few titles of his essays or sermonettes:
Taking the Place of Other People
People Aren’t Perfect
Learning to live with People
To Youth Leaving Home
The Courage to Say “I do not know”
On Offering Excuses
On Waiting for Ideal Conditions

In the first book of Elder Evans, we find 214 essays. There are six books in my collection; so the total is near 1300 essays. The books were published by Harper’s and Brothers, a major American publisher. These books were bought before and immediately after the Second World War. Five of the hardcover books sold for $2 new. A slightly larger book, published by Harper in 1957, cost $3. Inflation perhaps. It has been my pleasure, even as a non-believer, to read every essay in the six books.

After the Spoken Word, Elder Evans would close the broadcast with these words:
“Next week at this same hour, Music and the Spoken Word will again be brought to you from the Crossroads of the West. Again we leave you within the shadows of the everlasting hills. May peace be with you this day and always”.

Elegant words and elegant music. These broadcasts must have made a big dent in my brain as they have been remembered for 68 years. All the dialogue quoted above came exclusively from my memory; no reference books were available or needed until the newest book arrived this week after the essay was virtually completed.

The Crossroads of the West is, of course, Salt Lake City.

Evans died in 1971 at the age of 65 years. As the Mormons phase it, “Elder Evans was sustained to the Council of Twelve and ordained an Apostle on October 8, 1953…” It must be supposed that only the President of the Mormon Church outranks an Apostle.

The six books in my possession are:
Unto the Hills
At This Same Hour
The Spoken Word
From Within These Walls
This Day and Always
The Everlasting Things

You will notice, the books take their names from the Elder Evans introduction and parting words on the radio broadcasts.

The Evans essays took only a few minutes to deliver. There was no cajolery and no urging to get right with the Lord while there is still time. And mostly, there was no attempt to regurgitate dubious thoughts learned at a seminary. His academic years were spent pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters in the same field. His thoughts were unburdened by what Joshua may have whispered to Ezekiel, or was it Hezekiah, perhaps in 300 B.C.

My work brought me to New York in 1955. Apparently, CBS does not broadcast the Mormon programming in New York City, so it is necessary to rely on records and books. Earlier this week, we played a record of Music and the Spoken Word recorded years ago. It gives me great pleasure to report that the music and the words are as appropriate today as when they were first recorded.

Since Evan’s death in 1971, he has been succeeded by J. Spencer Kinnard and now, Lloyd D. Newell.

Some of these essays are a struggle to write. This one about Elder Evans, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and James Conde wrote itself.

January 17, 2004

Post Script about a little humor in religious expressions:
This essay was written before it came to my belated attention that this was the 75th Anniversary of the birth of Music and the Spoken Word program and before the 75th Anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. was to be celebrated on January 19th. It must be concluded that my bring up system could use a drastic overhaul, but I never thought it would be in use for this long.

A new hard cover book covering the history of Music and the Spoken Word arrived here this Saturday. It prints some essays delivered by Elder Evans and two of his successors over the span of three quarters of a century. They are still good.

The purpose of this Post Script is to observe that ministers who practice the art of preaching seldom, if ever, include a little humor in their words. What a great pity. As much as Richard Evans was admired starting some 65 years ago, he never permitted an ounce of humor to penetrate his broadcasts.

The observance of the King celebration was celebrated in Summit, New Jersey on January 18th, by a joint church service between two black churches, one Baptist and one Methodist, and a white Presbyterian church. They had rented the auditorium of the Summit High School which is an austere and sort of lonely setting for such a celebration.

The first hour or more of the service was dominated by the Methodist and Presbyterian pastors. It was an hour devoid of any humor. At least one of the choir members, dozed off – and missed absolutely nothing. Then it was the turn of the Baptist preacher. That is where the proceedings became interesting and the dozers awoke much like Lazarus.

The Baptist preacher, J. Michael Sanders of the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, spoke in the elegant terminology of Southern Baptists. In an ironic twist, he asked the three congregations to fill this “great sanctuary with joyful praise.” It made no difference if he was preaching in the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan or in a one room church in Alabama or in the antiseptic setting of the auditorium of the Summit High School. His style was unaltered.

When there was mike trouble, the Baptist preacher wryly observed that such trouble did not exist until they got mixed up with Methodists and Presbyterians. Everyone was laughing with the preacher and he had not even begun his message.

Then Reverend Sanders explained to everyone that in the Baptist tradition, the congregation and the choir were expected to talk back to the preacher. Amens were welcome and halleluiahs were even more so. When his choir began to applaud his explanation of talking back, the Baptist preacher said, in response to that spontaneous applause, he would voluntarily add 15 minutes to his pared down message which was to last at least an hour.

About the proposed length of his message, he observed that there was heavy snow falling as he spoke. Snow removal crews around here traditionally are slow to go to work. Reverend Sanders explained that when he reached the end of his proposed sermon, the snow may even have been removed. Then he said there would be a little get together in the cafeteria after the ceremonies were concluded. He urged the combined congregations to meet somebody new and if you can’t find somebody that you do not know, talk to somebody that you do not like.

By now all the dozers were awake and the three congregations knew they were being addressed by a good guy. Good guys are in short supply in the religious business, particularly preachers.

It must be asked if soldiers engaged in the most hazardous occupation that exists today, can lampoon each other, why are religionists dour and devoid of humor. It may be suspected that accountants sometimes laugh at their own mistakes. Those who work in low paying jobs have a camaraderie based on humor. It may be suspected that undertakers have inside jokes. But people in the religious business flee at the thought of humor.

Perhaps by the scene stealing performance of the Baptist preacher at the 75th celebration of the King birthday in Summit, N.J., it may be that another preacher or two will loosen up and try a little humor. On the other hand, perhaps it would be too much to ask for course reversal or even course changing at this stage of the other preacher’s careers. It is not clear if prayer would help. But in the meantime, if you want to have your religious preaching served with a dash of humor, go to the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit. It is suspected that white Presbyterians or Methodist worshipers would be more than welcome by Reverend Sanders. And they might learn something, even if the sermons take the better part of Sunday morning.

EEC 1-19-04


Hell of a post script — almost as long as the essay itself. Still though, I can appreciate that Pop never shut himself completely off from religion, with the understanding that it sometimes can still contribute value like music, or a sense of community. It’s easy to see things in black and white, but much harder to find merit something like organized religion, which by the whole he considered to be pretty awful. At the end of the day, every organization is just a bunch of people, and there are great people everywhere. And the Mormons can friggen’ sing.


Chuck Scarborough has been broadcasting the evening news on NBC in New York City for at least 12 or 15 years. During that time, his sidekick has been a spirited black woman named Sue Simmons. Scarborough’s demeanor comes off as something between sober and dour. When Christmas week arrived this year, Scarborough was to read a promotion for another NBC program. Apparently it was named “Away in a Manger” but a pesky “a” snuck into Scarborough’s script. And so it was that Scarborough announced that the program would be called “Away in a Manager.” He mistook manager for manger on two occasions before he stopped himself and more or less said “What the hell is going on here?” Sue Simmons was beside herself with laughter. Scarborough was not amused and I suspect that some typist or proof reader may find himself in the unemployment line for his mistake.

Another mistake took place in California in the recent elections this fall which has much more significance than Scarborough’s misreading of his script. In the recently completed election in California, there was a so-called Proposition 8 which in effect would bar gay marriages. I believe that it defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, which of course would bar marriages between people of the same sex.

The campaign was financed heavily by evangelical churches and by the Mormons. Rick Warren, who is to deliver the invocation at Obama’s swearing-in ceremony for the Presidency, is an evangelical and he led the fight along with the Mormon Church, which also contributed heavily toward the financial end of the bargain.

With all of the world’s woes hanging like an albatross around our necks, it remains a mystery why same-sex marriages have such a fatal attraction for evangelicals and the Mormon Church, to say nothing of other sects. But when the votes were counted, there were enough tallies to amend the California constitution to add a bar on marriages between people of the same gender. Rick Warren and the Mormons cast this as a great crusade that they will take to other jurisdictions in forthcoming elections.

Now before going forward, I think it is important that you should know that your essayist has always been a straight man. As far as I can recall, no homosexual thoughts have ever crossed my mind. On the other hand, since I was 13 years of age or thereabouts, I was aware of people who were inclined toward the homosexual life. In those times, it was often referred to as being “queer.”

In my enjoyment of life in New York, for example, I was aware that I was being entertained by homosexual people and that many of them were preparing my restaurant food. To put it succinctly, I have always held the view that the homosexual life is different from mine, but that is no reason to bar it. In former years, there were those who were dedicated to the imposition of slavery on their fellow men. But if I lived in those times, I would have seen no reason to join in their effort to stamp on the necks of people who had a different coloration of their skin than mine.

A good many of the evangelicals, or perhaps all of them, as well as the Mormons will contend that man is created in God’s image. For purposes of argument, let us assume that such is the case. If that is true, it must be assumed that God, or some other creator, created homosexual people, because I do not remember the Scriptures that God created everyone except queer people. Are we to conclude that God or some other divine creature made a colossal mistake when he created homosexual men and women? For people of faith, I believe that they will adopt such an attitude with great peril to their own belief system.

But my point goes more specifically to the evangelicals. During the first 13 years of my life, my parents forced me to attend services at a variety of evangelical churches. I hated every minute of it. The last such church I attended was called The Free Will Baptist Church, where organs and pianos were barred from accompanying the hymns. The reason for this ban was that those instruments did not exist when Jesus was alive. When I pointed out to the authorities such as the Sunday school teacher that my father’s Studebaker automobile which brought us to Sunday services at the church, did not exist in the time of Jesus as well, my expression was met with a stony stare.

As you can tell by this time, I assume, I do not hold evangelicals in high regard. Let me go one step further with evangelicals. It is a common fact that some of them grow tobacco. The evangelicals exist in warm climates such as Virginia and the Carolinas where tobacco is grown. When push comes to shove, the medical facts are that tobacco causes all sorts of cancers and other human ailments.

From sometime in 1938 until March of 1956, your old essayist was a heavy smoker. During those years, it was commonplace for him to be felled by chest colds at least two or three times per year. The fact is that there were occasions when I smoked as much as three packs per day. During my hitch in the American Army, the PXs sold cigarettes at five cents per pack which encouraged their use. But in March of 1956, I concluded that I was not going to live for long if I continued smoking. So I quit. Cold turkey.

Two events marked this cessation of smoking. Rita Snedicker, my boss’s secretary, confidently predicted that my quitting would be of short duration. It has gone on now for more than 52 years. The second great event is that shortly after my cessation of smoking, my wife announced that there was a baby on the way. Prior to that occasion, there had been no pregnancies and perhaps that was a miracle of some sort.

But my point is very simple. Evangelicals are hip-deep in the production of tobacco. Ask any Virginian or North Carolinian. Furthermore, ask any medical counselor about whether there is any virtue in smoking cigarettes. If you have the courage to ask such a question, I am sure that the medical counselor will question your sanity. The fact is that tobacco causes all sorts of illnesses including cancer.

But given all these facts, have you seen Rick Warren, the superb pastor of the Saddleback church in California or any of the Mormon leaders attempting to attach a constitutional amendment to any state constitution barring the use of tobacco? The fact is that the church leaders have never attempted to bar an agent that is widely known as an agent of death. Instead they have concentrated their efforts on banning same-sex marriages. Now the question that I have to pose here is whether anyone has ever heard of a fatality resulting from a marriage between people of the same gender. The fact is that gay people get married because they love each other. Heterosexual people do the same thing. Gay people who marry are in the position of prolonging life, not shortening it.

So may I say here that the evangelicals and the Mormons and the other people of faith who voted for Proposition 8 have their priorities significantly screwed up. If they want a constitutional ban, they might start with tobacco rather than same-sex marriages which never killed anyone.

Now as to Chuck Scarborough’s reading of the script that contained the error between manger and manager. A cynic such as myself might say to the person who typed that script that he should go for the cycle, as they say in baseball. As long as he or she is being fired, he might give Scarborough a script that reads:

Away in a manager
No crab for his heap.

As everyone knows, mistakes happen and surely during the season of Christmas they ought to be forgiven, even by a sobersides such as Chuck Scarborough.

December 25, 2008
Essay 355
Kevin’s commentary: Merry Christmas, everybody! I’ve never understood the dual fixations of abortions and gay marriage, both of which are almost by definition unable to affect anyone but the people who are getting them. If you don’t like gay marriages, don’t get gay married. If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one. Except that in the latter case, tons of people who are nominally “pro-life” end up getting abortions themselves when they decide that their circumstances are particularly extenuating. For instance, something like 90% of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. There’s no way that about half of those aren’t coming from conservative people who would probably say that they were ‘Pro-life’ when questioned.

Basically the idea that the government should be legislating our sex lives is insane, and even those advocating for it are deeply hypocritical when their own interests are concerned.


A good many years ago my eldest brother married a woman named Rose Wilson. Rose may have been the kindest woman known to mankind. As my mother would have said, “She had a big heart.” Although I did not see much of Rose because of my living in Kansas City, Chicago, and New York, I had every reason to believe what my mother and so many others said about Rose Wilson Carr.

My brother died around the age of 60 and soon after Rose fell ill as well. During her terminal illness, Rose put her trust in the ultimate decider. As it turned out, when Rose and Charlie were still married, before Charlie’s death, there was a succession of churches that they attended. The fact of the matter is that my brother had a short temper, and if the preacher said something that Charlie disagreed with, he would then move to another church. But when Rose fell ill with what turned out to be her terminal illness, there was sort of a blessing here.

When I called Rose at the hospital in suburban St. Louis from my office in New York City, she reported to me that she had three churches praying for her continued life. It gave Rose considerable comfort to know that three churches were praying for her. Being a non-believer, of course I said nothing. My comments were to the effect that I knew she would get better. However, within a short time Rose died. Even with the three churches prayers and with Rose’s own prayers as well, the ultimate decider decided – if you believe in religious authority – to take Rose’s life.

My own guess is that Rose had a significant malfunction in one of her vital organs that may have been inoperable. In any case, the final illness of Rose Wilson Carr is the place where I ultimately decided to start this essay.

In this world there is an order of nuns that engages in perpetual prayer of the rosary. I believe that the Dominican nuns established this order perhaps 300 or 400 years ago. In the adjoining town of Summit, New Jersey there is a large convent which houses the local branch of the Dominican nuns. They engage in perpetual prayer and adoration, as I understand it, aimed at the ultimate decider in life, namely God or the Holy Ghost. You may recall an essay that I wrote after having read an obituary of a nun who had devoted her adult life to praying the rosary in the local branch of the Dominican nuns in Summit, New Jersey. The essay was a tribute to her sense of duty. After the essay was finished, I sent a copy to the nun in charge of this convent and I received a very lovely reply.

Finally, yesterday computers brought me the news that in New Delhi, India the monkeys were running amok. From all indications, their birth rates are greater than those of human beings. It has developed that some of the persons who worship these monkeys are confined to their houses while the monkeys have taken over their yards. New Delhi is the capital of India, a very important country, which makes it difficult for me to understand this news.

As it stands right now, I have only the news reports that monkeys in India have something to do with the soul when life is finished here. The monkey report was a new one for me in view of the fact that I thought that cows were worshipped in India. Now it turns out that both cows and monkeys are on the celestial level.

So here we have Rose Wilson Carr praying to the great decider as well as the Dominican nuns who are in perpetual prayer to the same God, as I understand it. And finally, according to believers in New Delhi, perhaps the ultimate decider worships a monkey. You may rest assured that a non-believer such as myself is thoroughly confused.

But there is one other entry that perhaps should be included here. It comes from the religion of the Mormons, also known as the Latter Day Saints. Last fall, a musical opened on Broadway called “The Book of Mormon.” One of the lead songs from this very melodic musical was called “I Believe.” The song goes as follows:

I believe that Satan has a hold of you.
I believe that the Lord God has sent me here.
And I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people and you can be a Mormon, a Mormon who just believes.

So you see, the Mormons who have excluded black people from their membership for all these years, decided in 1978 that God indeed had changed his mind and he told his followers in Utah that they could admit black people without fear of grave sin.

I believe that these four cases of Rose Wilson, the nuns in Summit, the monkeys in New Delhi, and “The Book of Mormon” make my point. In the view of this complete non-believer, the ultimate decider is undecided. Much more than that, it has been my unshakable belief for many years that God, or whoever is the ultimate decider, is a product of man’s imagination.

In other words, there was no shouting down from heaven as to what should be contained in the Gospels. It was the Gospels that were written here on earth that created the so-called ultimate decider.

I am fully aware that my observations in this essay will not fit with the beliefs of many of my readers. But if those who believe can make up their minds about what they believe, I believe that I am entitled to state my own views. It is done without rancor. In substance, what I am saying is that the message did not come downwards from some celestial being, but rather it was man who invented God or gods with the intention to persuade others to believe what they had invented.

Well, so much for this essay that has been lurking in my mind for several years. I am glad that it is now dictated and will soon appear on paper. Finally, if you have the opportunity, please go see a performance of “The Book of Mormon,” so you can tell me about such lines as “God changed his mind.”

May 24, 2012
Essay 659


Kevin’s commentary: I’ve always liked when essays tie together so many seemingly unrelated things. The nuns in quesiton remind me of the Baba in India I once saw on television, who has kept one of his hands raised for fortyish years. To me it seems pretty crazy that somewhere in the neighborhood of a third of third of the world would probably feel that the nuns weren’t wasting their time but that the Baba was. I honestly can’t tell the difference. Same goes double for the regular Christians who make fun of Mormons (who are pretty damn cultish, let’s be honest) for their posthumous babtisms and stuff, but then turn around and consume what they believe to be the literal flesh and blood of a man who has been dead for several thousand years.  Most normal thing in the world.


At the moment, I am involved with this essay on the horns of a modest dilemma.  The dilemma has to do with the Republican Party whose candidate in the year 2012 in all likelihood will be Mitt Romney.

As it turns out Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  This may be hard to be believed in this day and age but the Mormons believe that there is a spirit world floating around somewhere in the universe.  I have had trouble comprehending the angels of the Christian faith.  Now it appears that, if Mr. Romney is elected, we will have to deal with the Church of Latter Day Saints spirit world.

As my readers know, I am a total non-believer in religious affairs.  I do not envisage that at Armageddon the graves of my parents will open and they will emerge dancing.  That is a bad mistake I made in my effort to be all-inclusive because the fact is that my parents never danced one step in their lives.  It was against their religion.

But here we are, about to witness the campaign of Mitt Romney, who was a bishop in the Mormon church.  From what I have been led to believe and what I have read in the newspapers, it appears that the spirit world is a lively place to be.   Apparently the Mormons have an obsession about the Jews.  Quite recently the Mormons were accused of reading the obituaries of Jews and in some way converting them to Mormonism.  I hope that you will forgive the ignorance on my part as to how a dead person is converted.  But that is the fact of the matter.  I must be a terrible reader because as a non-believer it would appear that my soul or spirit or whatever would be a prime target for the Mormons to come after.  Can you imagine the singing and dancing that would occur if old Ezra, a complete non-believer, were to be converted to Mormonism after the expiration of my life in this vale of tears?  But if the Mormons can convert dead Jews to be among their faithful, I can only presume that it is a matter of time until they come after those of us who are non-believers.

So much for personal concerns about my thoughts and non-beliefs.  My basic point in this essay has to do with my mother who was an ardent Christian and who also chewed Copenhagen snuff.  If the Mormons ever attempt to convert my mother who expired in 1961, they should be aware of her habit of chewing snuff.  This inquiry is being made by a dutiful son who wishes to preserve his mother in the spirit world of the Mormons.  I know about the Mormon beliefs as to alcoholic beverages but I am wondering at this moment if the Mormons prohibit the chewing of snuff for those who are still alive and more importantly if they disapprove of chewing snuff in the spirit world.

I know that this may appear to be an esoteric question but I want my mother to have the very best of everything as she enters the Mormon spirit world.

The snuff that was chewed by my mother was called Copenhagen Snuff.  I am at a total loss to explain how this snuff had anything to do with the capital of Denmark.  But the fact is that the leading brand of snuff here in this country is called Copenhagen Snuff.

If there was anything that could turn a young man off from chewing snuff, it was the need to expectorate fairly frequently as the snuff was chewed.  In my own estimation, chewing snuff is as unsanitary as you can get.  But the fact of the matter is that in all of her nearly 80 years Lillie Belle Carr chewed snuff as did at least one of her sisters.

Really, what I want to know is whether, after her death and subsequent conversion to Mormonism, snuff would be available for my mother’s consumption.  I might wish to understand where those in the spirit world could spit. Presumably those in the spirit world could spit and it would be burned up on its long great voyage toward Earth.  But as a dutiful son, this is a question that troubles me before any conversion attempts are made to convert my mother to Mormonism.

A transient thought at this point is whether Mormons try to make use of the warring factions in the Vatican City to convert.  I know that the world of Jewry has been the object of Mormon conversion attempts.  Why not turn this to the factions of the Vatican that don’t seem to be able to get along?  As I said, this is just a transient thought.

But my final thought is that Lillie Belle Carr is going to be a tough nut to crack for the Mormon apostles.  Even if they offered her a tub full of snuff to chew, my guess is that they would be told to go peddle their papers to someone else.

All of this leads us to watch the Presidential race as it unfolds, particularly with respect to Mormon beliefs.  For myself, I can only conclude that after my expiration here in this vale of tears the Mormons will make an attempt to convert me to their faith.  When that happens, I would like to know whether they would break out some champagne to celebrate this victory and I would also like to know whether champagne goes well with snuff.



May 28, 2012

Essay 663




Kevin’s Commentary:

Wait, wait, posthumous conversions are a thing?

Doesn’t that mean I don’t have to pay attention to Pascal’s Wager anymore? I mean not that said wager wasn’t utterly stupid in the first place, but now even if you buy it then everything’s fine. For those unfamiliar, the basic idea is that if you can either choose to believe or not believe in god, then you should default to belief because you get saved forever if you’re right and nothing happens if you’re wrong; conversely nonbelief leads to nothing happening if you’re right, and eternal damnation if you’re wrong.

There are uncountably many problems with this type of reasoning. I think the last time someone mentioned it to me was at dinner at a debate tournament in highschool, and I believe I was on argument six when the other guy decided that the discussion should be finished. But now, we can disregard all the standard problems, because if you can convert after you’re dead, we’re all set!

Here’s how I see it: get a clergy member of every religion that believes in some capacity of heaven or reincarnation. Have them come by cemeteries one at a time and convert the dead to Buddhism, Catholicism, Mormonism, or whatever in turn.  Ostensibly only one of these religions is going to be true, because they’re pretty much all mutually exclusive, scripturally speaking.  So as soon as the correct religion’s representative posthumously converts me, my immortal soul should sort of poof into existence in heaven, at which point I have conscious thought again and can opt to remain a part of whatever religion turned out to be right. Or me and everybody else at my cemetery can send some sort of divine signal down to stop subsequent conversions.

The reason this subverts the aforementioned Wager is that you can live life how you feel is correct as opposed to how you have been instructed to live by a given ancient scripture, but then you can still get the benefits of eternal salvation provided you can get someone to posthumously convert you, which shouldn’t be all too hard.