Our Vulnerability to Fraud, Deception, and Questionable Religious Marketing

Fraud is a problem that those of any religious community, Mormons included, need to beware. In religious communities where there is a sense of trust and fellowship toward others who share the same faith, con artists can rarely resist the temptation to exploit the religion to gain the trust of others. Utah Valley, for example, has a painful track record of fraud, with many deceivers having sought to strip believing Mormons of their wealth, using religion to gain confidence of believers for their scam.

On my last trip to Utah, I had dinner on a Saturday night, where I heard from one of my favorite ex-Mormons about his experiences with Mormon fraud. In the real estate market in Utah, he has faced dishonest people too frequently and had developed some basic warning signs of fraud and deception. In his view of the world, there are two warning signs that he feels are red flags for fraud and deception by religious con men. These signs are (1) talking openly about having an LDS temple recommend, and (2) making a point of displaying Books of Mormon. When someone seeking to close a deal or gain someone’s confidence uses both of those elements for personal gain, they can’t be trusted, in his opinion. Use of religion for personal gain is the essence of what Nephi warns against in the Book of Mormon, and I suppose it makes sense that it would be associated with fraud.

What amazed me was that within hours of that conversation, I picked up the Salt Lake Tribune and read an article about a prominent LDS politician on the cover of one of its sections. This politician apparently (so I imagine) was trying to score some points with the Mormon community by (1) telling them that he had a temple recommend and (2) making a point about how he has Books of Mormon on display in his office. Update: As much as I have come to distrust this politician’s motives in recent months, I am not saying that this article proves he is a fraud, though I did find it strangely ironic after the previous evening’s conversation. I couldn’t help but chuckle (tried to keep it a non-partisan chuckle, with equal air flow to both sides of my mouth).

The article in Utah’s leading newspaper opens by noting that this particular man “keeps a copy of the Book of Mormon in his office just off the chamber floor. There’s a second copy handy to give away to someone in need of spiritual guidance.” It then assures us that he has a temple recommend and is very active in the Church. The article, in my view, looks like it is drawn from a clever PR piece from the Senator’s office rather than being a real news story. Certainly slanted to assuage the LDS community.

While the only thing I have ever said about that politician on this blog was positive, I’m afraid that the LDS community needs to step back and look past his religion in evaluating whose side he really is on. It’s OK to vote however you want, but I hope LDS voters in this case – and all cases – will consider the real track record and not the religion in making a decision. It is vital that we elect readers not based on appearances but on their core values and track record.

Yes, I recognize that calling attention to this will be viewed as a purely political attack, but it’s not. I’m not a Republican, and am ashamed of that party’s actions to erode the liberty and financial stability of this nation over the past couple of decades or so. Their insane spending and growth of government has only accelerated, however. I am not for either party, but for liberty and for the US Constitution, and am simply shocked at how Constitutional restraint has been eroded in favor of big government socialism that will make the rich and powerful rich and powerful beyond imagination, at the expense of all of us. The real fraud that threatens this nation is not from any one individual, but from the insane spending frenzy and power grabs of the past few years that will leave our children and grandchildren with much less freedom and unbearable debt. When a government becomes so big and corrupt that it claims the privilege to offer – or compel – cradle-to-grave care of its citizens (typically a sham whose real aim is seizing massive power and wealth), there will inevitably be fewer cradles and more graves.

Sadly, the US Constitution and the extremely limited form of government it gave us is not just hanging by a thread, but being devoured by a lion. If ever there was a time for good men and women from the Rockies and everywhere else to stand up and insist that we return to the principles therein, this is it. I hope Congressmen of both parties, both LDS members and non-LDS, will take up this cause and perhaps repair any mistakes or misdeeds they may have been part of.

Our religion teaches us that the principles of that Constitution were inspired by God and that it is right that we should defend it. By the same token, I am prepared to look completely past the religion of anyone who, in my opinion, brazenly violates it in supporting the quest for power over our lives. They may be sincere in their personal faith and may be active Christians in good standing in their churches or ours, but when their supporters make a show of their religion to garner confidence among the faithful, my suspicions can only grow, regardless of which party they are in. Skepticism in this and all cases with politicians can only be healthy.

Any of you read the Constitution recently? Any of you compared the principles of the Republic given to us by wise and inspired Founding Fathers with the principles we see in operation today? These are troubling times. The excesses of dictators of all kinds in the past century have often begun with a claim of helping the people – a claim based on fraud and misplaced confidence. This is not the right time for blind faith in mortals and any scheme that gives politicians even more control over our lives.

A good Mormon or good Christian in general can believe many different things when it comes to politics, but I think a good Mormon must in some way be deeply committed to the cause of personal liberty. If nothing else, we depend on that if our religion is going to survive in this crazy world. But it matters for many more reasons as well. Once liberty is lost, you don’t just get it back by trying a different politician when the next election rolls around.

Dec. 30 update: I’ve changed the title for clarity.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

0 thoughts on “Our Vulnerability to Fraud, Deception, and Questionable Religious Marketing

  1. wow, are you calling Senator Reid a fraud? That Senator Reid is the same as some local schmuck who thinks he can get an extra dollar or two by exploiting his religious connection with the person he is trying to exploit? That's just lame dude. I'm not going to read your blog anymore.

  2. Jeff,
    Did you read the article? He keeps a Book of Mormon in his office. (Various missionaries have asked me to do the same thing.) The temple recommend comment was made by members in D.C., not by Senator Reid, and was made apparently as a repudiation of the oft-repeated allegation that Reid's not an active member.

    I realize you're not a fan of Democrats, but accusing the journalist of repeating a press release? Seriously, did you read it?

    The difference between Reid and your average Mormon con artist? I've not seen Reid trying to sell a fraudulent product by being Mormon. (Frankly, his Mormonness may be a disadvantage in convincing those with whom he works.)

    And how can he win? If the media doesn't mention his religion, conservatives widely accuse it of using Mormonism against Mitt Romney while ignoring Reid's Mormonism. If his Mormonism is mentioned, apparently he's a purveyor of fraud.

  3. I like Reid. I approve of doing something to help more Americans get healthcare than our current situation. If Reid has a Book of Mormon in his office, good for him! Don't be ashamed of the gospel.

  4. Sam B.,

    "I've not seen Reid trying to sell a fraudulent product by being Mormon".

    In case you don't follow the news, the health care bill that just passed the senate is the largest fraud ever forced upon the American people.

  5. I live in Utah and I think your favorite ex-mo is very insightful. It is a red flag for anyone who is selling anything to promote him or herself as a "good Mormon", and I have seen politicians do this as well.

    In all fairness to Senator Reid, when I read this article my impression was that the reporter was using this tack as a way to promote the Senator to Mormons, most of whom do not approve of his conduct since he became Senate Majority Leader. He may not have been the instigator of it. The story reads like a propaganda piece, and I imagine the whole idea behind it was, "Let's show what a good Mormon Senator Reid is to his LDS constituents!" I have seen a lot of this in the media during the last year or two; leftist politicians are portrayed as "good Christians" whose politics are driven by their devotion to Jesus Christ. It's obviously just another way to try to get votes.

  6. The fact that Harry Reid keeps a copy of the Book of Mormon on his desk doesn't necessarily indicate fraud, but having senator in front of his name does.

  7. Anonymous (10:09),
    I'm afraid I don't follow you. The Senate bill is far from perfect–there should, among other things, be a public insurance option–but "fraud" has a very specific meaning, and that meaning is not, "Legislation that I don't personally like."

    Admittedly, posting anonymously doesn't provide you any credibility, but even if you had any, misusing terms of art would shoot the credibility you had.

  8. And Shana, the Salt Lake Tribune isn't writing to Senator Reid's constituents. Or at least I assume Nevada has its own papers; I can't imagine Nevadans spend a whole lot of time reading a Utah paper. So it's not written to his constituents, any more than the New Yorker article I read on him a few years ago was written to his constituents. It's a general interest piece about one of the most powerful men in America who, although he has no geographic connection with Utah, has a religious link.

  9. Another blog for another day might be a take on multi-level marketing. It can be okay, but quite often the scams do choose to use multi-level marketing, which helps give multi-leveling a bad name. I am not a fan of multi-level, but it seems to be bigger in Utah than other places. Would you consider a blog on it some day?

  10. John, some (not all) multi-level marketing companies may be great examples of this problem. That's the source of some of the Utah Valley fraud, in fact. Way too much gullibility and abuse of religion to drive business. Beware!

    Dan, no, I'm not saying Harry Reid is like the local guy who gets an extra dollar or two. The actions of numerous players in our government from both parties over the past several years that really concern me involve a scale of theft far greater than many people can imagine – trillions of dollars seized or created from nothing to defraud our currency, decades of indebtedness, power grabs beyond the wildest dreams of petty conmen, the transfer of vast segments of private enterprise and private property rights into the hands of bureaucrats, the awarding of billions of dollars to criminal elements on Wall Street, and horrific, unnecessary and highly expensive war around the globe that will further erode our economy and our security while costing many lives. There is fraud and corruption in all of this. To link that with petty con-men charging too much for some beverage or even ripping off several thousand people Madoff-style, is off by many orders of magnitude.

  11. I remember a year or so ago, your blogs prompted by our shriveling economy. I enjoyed them. I also enjoy this one.
    I think I'll weigh in with those who say Senator Reid is fine in placing his Book of Mormon prominently in his office. Sounds like a plus, not a negative, as I am not going to judge his motive.
    Now, I wish I could find the article with the quote, but I know Sen. Reid, about a week ago, said something to the effect that every Senator should have something in this new health bill, this in response to talk of how the Sen. Nelson from Nebraska got something in it and how the senator from Florida got something in it and many others, obviously, also got things in the bill. Perhaps Sen. Reid was simply saying it was such an important piece of legislation, every Senator should help craft it. But I can't help but notice a lot of what is in the bill is not reform, but pork barrell.
    Yes, Sen. Reid's comment somehow seemed to condone, encourage and approve of that.
    I do not think a bill filled with pork-barrell offerings is what was in mind when the nation decided to reform health care. It seems one of the biggest needs of all was to REDUCE the price of health care. How is it, then, government estimates are suggesting the new legislation will result in health care costs going up from 2011 to 2020?
    Reform? I don't think so. Rather, I'm fearing, the new legislation may embellish the problem.

  12. To claim that the bill is about reducing health care costs is, on its face, frauduelent with the lawyers behind it refuse to consider the most obvous and easy-to-fix source of burgoning costs, tort reform. Reid and his gang won't even let it be debated, if I understand correctly. Why? Follow the money. It's about money, and taking it from us.

  13. I appreciate your expression of your opinion. I would like to also express my opinion on the condition of our country. I truly believe that it is in trouble with our current system of 2 parties and special interests. But who is to blame for the current condition. I would say that we the people, which as it is stated in the preamble of the constitution, have gone awry with not caring enough to get involved with their local and national political machine.

    It is a true shame that all that seems to be of priority to our congress is where they can get the most support from. The skill of negotiations with an eye trained on keeping right the laws, not to legislate righteousness, of the land for the protection of everyone and not the rich or the special interests.
    Things have gotten out of control and as you stated about the conduct of the local and national government.

    We need to pull the government back into line by letting them know by our votes that the good-old-boy mentality is a no go with us. Vote out the bad and find the good to put in office.

    I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and will have a Happy New Year. May we all shoulder the responsibility that is ours because we are Americans no matter our race or our heritage. Get involved and do your part.

  14. Every recent poll has shown the huge majority of Americans are against this health care bill. Do our leaders listen? No. They are only interested in re-election and pork.

  15. Jeff,

    Not many years ago, Utah Valley was called Happy Valley because life here was like an episode of "The Brady Bunch". Many people, especially those raised here, still see this area as Happy Valley and that makes them very vulnerable to fraud. To put it bluntly, they are gullible, especially when dealing with other Mormons.

  16. Sam B.,

    The definintion of fraud is: Deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.


    Harry's health care debacle is full of pork, special deals (Lousiana and Nebraska) and partisan closed door meetings. All of these things are "perpetrated for profit". Sounds to me like the definition of fraud.

    Harry knows exactly what he is doing, and it isn't the first time he has played this game. Just ask Nevadans how he got a sweatheart deal on land at the Las Vegas airport.

    So rant all you want about credibility…it doesn't change the facts.

  17. Anonymous,
    Sorry, no. Your characterization of the bill is way off, but let's assume that you're right, and that the bill is pure pork, enacted for Senator Reid's profit.

    That's groovy. But where is the deceit? You apparently know what's in the bill. You disagree with it and consider it a waste of taxpayer dollars. But that's not fraud—at worst it's poor legislation.

  18. Well, Jeff, I suppose you wish, but it's hard to imagine that Reid's Mormon ties as a political asset these days.

    Reid, like all of us, is welcome to practice the politics he chooses.


  19. Jeff,

    While your point is well taken, i agree with earlier posts that the article is written to show there is some evidence that contradicts the prevailing notion that Sen. Reid just isn't a very good Mormon.

    When I lived in South Carolina, I remember the Baptists saying, "if you're in a business deal, and the other guy mentions he's a Christian, check for your wallet." The same advice applies here.

    Sam B, It's ironic that you say 'anonymous' lacks credibility because they don't say who they are. When I click on "Sam B" it takes me to a blog on food that, as far as I can see, says nothing about your identity. Having a coy partial name (like yours and mine) is no more credibility-building than just signing in as anonymous.

  20. Gotta love the way any politically themed blog post goes down. It always amazes me how fired up people get over this stuff. Not that it isn't warranted but everyone is an expert and everyone else is a deceptive jerk, or just plain misinformed.

    On the Prop 8 issue, I think the solution is not to change the definition of marriage but for the federal government to finally say, "hey! This is a religious issue and has nothing to do with federal law anyways. Civil unions all around and let churches decide if two people are 'married' or not!" I honestly cannot see how the federal government started recognizing 'marriages' of any type to begin with. Should there be federally recognized baptisms as well? How many people would like that? Silly stuff, this.

  21. Jeff,

    I've always believed that one should judge a person by their actions, not be the religion they claim to have of follow. But I am always leery of anyone who makes a point of displaying their religion like a signpost or use any part of it in their advertising, intended or implied.

    To anyone who feels the need to do this, I immediately am wary, as one should prove one's faith through one's actions, not one's advertising. If a man is honest and true, word will get around, as will the opposite, and the need for trappings will be irrelevant.

  22. I learned to stop trusting Mormons just because they are active or temple-recommend-holding members of the church when I was in the MTC in 1984. Well, at least I hope I learned that lesson.

  23. I had a client from a South-East Asian country who owned a car repair shop. He is not LDS but managed to more than double his business by placing great big pictures of the First Presidency on his wall…

  24. Senator Bennett suddenly writes a book about the Book of Mormon. Does that make him a fraud, too? You don't have to like Sen.Reid or healthcare reform, but to accuse him of being a Mormon huckster is way off base.

  25. The unofficial warning signs listed by my ex-Mormon friend are simply red flags, not proof of anything. Con men can write books, I suppose, but there are much easier ways to run a scam.

    As for his religion not being a political asset, it certainly may be among the roughly 20% of his voters who are LDS. The rest are likely to perceive religion as not being a big factor for Reid when his positions on abortion and other topics don't seem to reflect LDS tainting.

  26. I live in Nevada and his faith has never played a role in my decision whether or not to vote for him, which is why I haven't not once since being allowed to vote and the reason is he is a political fraud he does not stand for his constituents including those that are LDS and those that are not. He has only won the office because of heavily using his faith as a tool to get re-elected and finally those of us who have seen through him the entire time feel vindicated knowing that rest of the good people in this state see right through him. Unless you live in this state and ask the people who vote for him why they did (most common answer is that he's Mormon, second most common is I always have that should tell you something)you have no room to stand up for this man who is slowly turning our state into California only worse because we don't have California's natural resources to work with. So to those defending him read his record see if he's a fraud (hint he is).

  27. Jeff,

    "The actions of numerous players in our government from both parties over the past several years that really concern me involve a scale of theft far greater than many people can imagine – trillions of dollars seized or created from nothing to defraud our currency, decades of indebtedness, power grabs beyond the wildest dreams of petty conmen, the transfer of vast segments of private enterprise and private property rights into the hands of bureaucrats, the awarding of billions of dollars to criminal elements on Wall Street, and horrific, unnecessary and highly expensive war around the globe that will further erode our economy and our security while costing many lives."

    Who do you think this began with? Admittedly I have not read your blog since its inception (not really knowing when you actually began). But I'm curious what you thought of Bush's tax cuts of 2001 back in 2001. I bet you liked them very much, even though they were exactly what you describe here. I bet you voted for Bush in 2004, thus giving legitimacy to everything you deride here, which is exactly what Bush did in his first term.

    However, this is not even close to the thrust of your piece here. So you are offering a red herring as a response. Your post here is about Harry Reid and how he is a fraud because he has a Book of Mormon on his desk and has journalists write than in puff pieces. And you offer this charge based on some ex-mormon whose own wisdom is questionable at best. This is really really lame, Jeff.

  28. Dan, you may not have noticed that my comments were critical of both of the big government, big spending parties. What makes you think that concern about Harry Reid's vast escalation of government and our indebtedness automatically means that someone must be a loyal Bush supporter? FYI, I did not vote for him in 2004.

    Tax cuts aren't what lead to a loss of liberty – it's unconstitutional power grabs and property grabs. Deficit spending for unconstitutional purposes is clearly part of that problem. Tax increases to give big spenders more money is not the solution.

    Do you realize what it means to have increased our national debt from a trillion to many trillions of dollars in a brief period? If you found that a stranger had hacked your credit card and that you were now accountable for $30,000, wouldn't you be furious? What about people who hack our nation's economy and government to suddenly add about $30,000 or more per family to your debt? Doesn't that concernn you? It's part of a pattern of gargantuan theft occuring before our eyes. Where have our individial politicians been during these atrocities, both partisan and bipartisan? Cashing in, advancing their careers, or defending the Constitution? Where have we all been? Ignoring the erosion of our future, or at least paying attention?

    Socialism works – for those who want massive power over other people's lives. For those who want freedom and prosperity, it's a dismal failure worldwide, now and historically. Whether it's administered by Republicans or Democrats, it's deadly medicine.