Subject: Conferences passes, curious phone chats
Date: Oct 09 16:07
Author: steve benson

I spoke yesterday with my wife, Mary Ann, about some of the matters that have been discussed recently on the board.

As usual, she had some relevant details to add, which I include here--with her matriarchal blessing.

On the subject of pulling the rank of the Generals to get into General Conference:

One time, as usual, we had arrived on Temple Square just prior to Conference commencing.

We flashed our "President Benson Family/Non-Transferable" tickets and were promptly ushered into our roped-off, holier-than-thou-holy-of-holy seats.

Mary Ann told me that later, back in our ward in Arizona, a member came up to her and said she had seen us go to the head of the class with our pass, while she (the ward member) had been forced to wait in line for two hours, hoping for a seat of her own.

Mary Ann mentioned how angry the ward member seemed over this preferential treatment.

And, as we both thought about it, justifiably so.

The episode played a part in our decision to get off the Related-to-the-Prophet Pedastel and stand in line from then on.

In short, to stop acting like pompous jackasses, forego Conference passes and get down with the masses.

On the subject of phone line anomalies:

Around the time Mary Ann and I publicly left the Church (and at the time I had openly criticized Oaks for his on-the-record lying about "grizzly bear" Packer's involvement in Paul Toscano's excommunication), Mary Ann made a phone call from Arizona to Sandra Tanner in Utah.

She wanted to thank Sandra for how the Tanners' book,"The Changing World of Mormonism," had significantly influenced her views on the Church (as it had mine).

Mary Ann said that in the middle of the phone conversation, the line suddenly filled with static and Sandra's voice began to fade out, sounding, as Mary Ann desribed it, "like she was 2,000 miles away, instead of 600 miles away."

Mary Ann hung up, told me what had happened and we both went outside to check the phone box on the wall.

There we encountered a man, dressed in a white T-shirt, blue jeans and sporting a long pony tail, fiddling around in the box.

He was not wearing any kind of uniform.

There was no phone company vehicle parked anywhere that we could see.

Mary Ann did notice, however, a line running out of the phone box that normally wasn't there.

I asked him what he was doing.

He said a neighbor of ours (who lived a block away and happened to be LDS, for what that may or may not be worth), was having trouble with their own phone, so he was using our line to fix theirs.

He promptly gathered up his tools and left without any more explanation, heading off on foot to who-knows-where.

(I later kicked myself for not asking for identification--maybe he was one of the Three Nephites--or following him).

Mary Ann subsequently called the phone company and explained what had happened.

The phone folks said they would send someone out to fix the problem.

Mary Ann later got a voice message from a phone company rep, saying that our lines had been rerouted through their main downtown facility and that we shouldn't have any problem in the future (to the best of our knowledge, we haven't).

The phone company did not say whether or not our line had been tapped.

I mention this episode not because I think this proves there is some "Dial-A-Danite" espionage operation being run by the Mormon Church against its critics.

However, several other outspoken and/or ex-Mormons have told me of their own phone encounters of the strange kind.

Incidents which led them to believe--and in some cases, have confirmed by the phone company--that their lines were being tapped from the outside.

("Tap, tap, tap." "What is wanted?" "Adam, having said a few things about the Church that apparently you don't like, wants to know what in the hell is going on behind the veil")

These individuals whom I mention as expressing concern about the integrity of their own phone lines were historian and ex-BYU professor D. Michael Quinn, feminist author Maxine Hanks, and ex-BYU professors, Martha and John Beck.

All are credible, honest and measured individuals, not given to fits of exaggeration.

The Mormon Church has openly admitted to keeping secret files on troublesome members, in the name of protecting the faith.

Could their operational zone also include your telephone?

Only the shadow knows . . .

Subject: Did you think to shake his hand?
Date: Oct 09 16:59
Author: Dagny
Mail Address:

How else would you know just what type of heavenly messenger he was? Thankfully, JS had the foresight to give us the rules of heavenly handshakes in the D&C. If you could not actually feel the hand of the fake phone guy, I guess that means he was a pal of Satan.

Thanks for sharing your amusing stories with us here! I would have called the cops if some goon was tampering with stuff on my property! I'm sure he caught you off guard. What a strange story.

An aside for Steve B.
Years ago (YBU years), when I was first married, my husband and I met you at one of your BYU residences. It was a basement apartment in a house in the hills if I remember correctly. One of your roommates was my brother in law. I think I also briefly dated one of your other roommates (he was pretty weird).

I had tons of assorted roommates during my BYU days, as I'm sure you did. I don't remember most of them, so I doubt you remember my brother in law. Man, the church did a number on him. He almost killed himself. (I can e-mail you if you want more info.)

Anyway, I vaguely remember meeting you but I do remember your cartoons were a link to sanity in the BYUnifarce News.

Subject: Re: Did you think to shake his hand?
Date: Oct 09 17:05
Author: steve benson

If I had had the presence of mind, I would have shaken his hand.

But if he was of the devil and I couldn't get hold of him, how could the cops have cuffed him?

Please e-mail more about your bro-in-law.

Unless the veil has been drawn across any memories of my former BYU existence, I might remember him

Subject: Who needs a Tom Clancy novel?! Your stories are great!
Date: Oct 09 17:14
Author: Sobriquet
Mail Address:

If you didn't have such great credibility, I'd think you were just another wacky conspiracy theorist or something. I love your posts, Steve. I hope you'll keep finding the time to give us more.

Subject: Of course your phone lines were tapped!
Date: Oct 09 17:20
Author: TLC
Mail Address:

Why wouldn't they be? You don't pay, pray and obey. You're in trouble and they're gonna tell mom if you don't stop it.

I mean really, what are they going to do? Threaten to take away your temple recommend? Go to the police and say that Steve Benson is saying mean/funny things about them?

Maybe they just wanted to know how much you really knew about the shit behind the scenes so they could start working on damage control before all the naughty truths came out.

You know what I always say...
Let them go sexual intercourse themselves.

Subject: I find myself having a hard time...
Date: Oct 09 17:22
Author: Michael
Mail Address:

accepting what might have actually happened to you and others you mention in your post. Let me first state that I have totally and officially left the LDS church (name and all) and have zero feelings or "promptings" that I have made a poor decision. My experience is somewhat typical. Life long member, mission to the UK, BYU grad, temple wedding etc. Now remarried and living a happy and fulfilled (both emotionally, financially and romantically) life outside UT. My MP was Gunn McKay. I lived near Bruce Olsen and Grant Von Harrison. Olsen was my bishop when I departed on my mission. My mother’s family - devoted LDS up to an including my GGP's. My father was converted after HS and brought his parents and sister with him. They are pretty much all active.

In a nutshell, I left after finally giving in to the nagging feeling (brain over "heart") that something didn't quite fit. I went through a 2-year period reading and studying everything I could find that wouldn't be construed as anti LDS. Obviously I found out that it was the true history of the LDS church and JS that every member of the church should be wary of. I learned and discovered things that my parents, even to today, haven’t heard of and won't listen to. Still, my parents are loving, I have a wonderful extended family and am treated just as well as I have ever been. I've never had a seriously bad experience with the church other then just disagreements on policy or doctrine. I've never been deeply offended by a member or leader and harbor no ill will other then that I wish I could have invested so much wasted time in some other arena of my choice. I know it is partly my fault. I should have headed my feelings so much sooner. Just immature I believe. I haven’t felt that the things you mention are possible up until recently. I guess it's because of new exposure to others experiences.

I've written very posts to this board but visit it on and off on occasion. I've enjoyed your posts and feel that you are an honest person. That I admire. It's hard to be completely honest in the word we now live in.

I hope you understand the reason and response to your post. Like an alcoholic will tell you, “once an alcoholic, always and alcoholic. Just a recovering one.” I feel it’s the same for those of us born into the fraud. I tell my wife that she will always be dealing with the fact that I was once LDS. She doesn’t think it’s too much to deal with. She was raised Catholic. We love to discuss religion.

Can you understand how it might be hard to swallow?

Subject: Re: I find myself having a hard time...
Date: Oct 09 17:42
Author: steve benson

I can understand why accepting such things can be profoundly difficult.

Being a faithful Mormon is an all-encompassing emotional, financial, social, personal, environmental and familial committment.

Having it all wash away can be enormously traumatic and leave one feeling alone, angry and skeptical.

I know it was for me.

But the things I have shared from my experiences and from the lives of others who have spoken to me about their own stories did happen.

You can follow up with those whom I have mentioned, should you be so inclined--and should they be inclined to talk.

Being burned by a church that supposedly spoke in heaven's name may understandably make one suspicious of claims made by others.

However, to quote Ronald Reagan's speechwriter, if you can, "Trust, but verify."

Subject: Re: Conferences passes, curious phone chats
Date: Oct 09 19:26
Author: MikeB

I find this entire thread quite interesting. Even in my unbelief, I wouldn't necessarily believe the church would tap phone line... However, given the prominance of someone like Steve Bensen leaving the church, I could imagine that it would happen.

I have several thoughts...

I notice there is definitely a "class" system in the church. Steve's affiliation with GAs and the conference passes are an example.

Although we are all suppose to be equal in the eyes of God, some members are more equal than others. I know kids of prominent LDS families seem to get off easy when they "sin". When I was growing up, the local drug dealer was the Bishop's son. I had a girl friend who was the SPs daughter -- I can guarantee you we got preferential treatment when we had to resolve an "issue"....

I also notice that when the Temple President, Stake President, Mission President, etc., etc., come to Sacrament Meeting everyone seems to pay them a great bit of deference. Recently, we had a home coming for the son of the former SP. It seemed like everyone and their brother was there (current SP, his councilors, High Council, etc....) -- it quadrupled our normally sparce attendence. When I came home from my mission MANY years ago -- it was just me and nobody else.

On another point... Steve, I remember your cartoons at BYU (mid-80s) -- I got some great laughs and a bit of reality. I vividly remember debates about how some people did not like some of the subject matter of the cartoons... The typical response was...but he's the prophet's grandson, it can't be all bad.

I think you should put together a cartoon book related to the mormon church (similar to Dilbert) would be a hoot.

One last point, I remember reading several years ago something you wrote as you left the church. At the time, I quite frankly did not connect you with the GAs of the church, even though the article did mention it (you'll have to forgive me on that). It really left an impression on me. In fact, it helped me clearly articulate my own issues with the church.

Subject: Re: Conferences passes, curious phone chats
Date: Oct 09 19:47
Author: steve benson

I totally agree with your assessment of the "class" system in the Church.

I would be inclined to define it more as a "caste" system, especially when it comes to the treatment of the supposedly "unclean": like gays, feminists and intellectuals.

I'm glad you liked some of those BYU-era cartoons.

Not wanting to minimize your compliments, however, I think by far the best cartoonists BYU ever produced were Cal Grondhal and Pat Bagley.

I could maybe draw the guts out of a head of lettuce, but these guys were doing biting social commentary on a lot of complex issues.

It took me time to evolve out of doing "fat coed" and "don't-drink-Coke-'cause-the-Prophet-says-so" cartoons.

Meanwhile, Cal and Pat were dealing with social, ecological and institutional themes that were ahead of their day--and certainly of me.

But thanks anyway.

Subject: I have been informed by several of my apostate friends that
Date: Oct 09 21:30
Author: MoNoMo
Mail Address:

their phones were also tapped. It's commonplace.

I remember having church police taking down license plate numbers when meetings took place where disenchanted members gathered.

Christlike my ass!!!
Subject: Mormon Caste System Alive and Well!
Date: Nov 20 22:22
Author: Deconstructor
Mail Address:

Mormon Royalty
Writen by a Former Bishop:

Our family has moved a fair amount as a result of job promotions involving relocations to other cities. One of the things that we have noticed is that each ward and stake has it's own royalty as well as a middle class and of course the "less fortunate fringe". When you move into a strange ward, you are quickly classified into one of the groups and there is little chance of ever being elevated to another group although downgrading is possible. Any outward indication or confession of a personal or family problem justifies immediate downgrading. To achieve royalty status, one needs to have at least several of the following traits in their favor:
1. Personal Wealth (tithing numbered in minimum 5 digits preferred)
2. Pedigree (Descendants of polygamous ancestors)
3. University Education (BYU grads score top points here)
4. Professional status (Doctors, dentists, lawyers, or Church Education System...CES types can be forgiven their lack of wealth)
5. Utah like grooming and accent
6. Large gregarious family
7. Evidence of embarrassing fully Mormon culture...language, tardiness, music, dress standards, FHE
8. Relatives or at least friends in high places
9. An LDS Track record: Mission, temple marriage, etc.
10.Absolutely no hint of being a real person with real problems
11.the ability to sound incredibly sincere and to bring tears to your eyes almost at will

The Mormon Middle class may have some of the traits of Mormon Royalty, but are marred with such horrible defects as:

1. Witnessed drinking cola in public
2. Rooted for the University of Utah over BYU
3. Once received Church welfare or worse still public welfare
4. Stayed home to watch the Superbowl instead of attending Church meeting
5. Wife works outside the home
6. Kids don't attend seminary
7. Too many non member friends
8. Failure in a church calling
9. Unglamorous employment (factory worker, tradesman, sales clerk, etc.)
10.Convert of less than 10 years
11.Loud laughter

Then of course we have the fringe element, the poor bastards that everyone else can look down on thank God that they are so much better than the they are. The following are some qualifying traits:

1. Low economic status regardless of reason
2. Lack of formal education
3. Too much formal education coupled with independent thinking thus qualifying as a hated intellectual
3. Facial hair, unconventional hair cut, or the dreaded tattoo
4. A foreign accent
5. any hint of homosexuality
6. Mormon Fundamentalist views or sympathies
7. Read the SL Tribune instead of Deseret News
8. Non traditional modes of dress, men with ear rings or women with piercing in nose, eyelid, etc.
9. Buy lottery tickets
10.Question authority or ask embarrassing questions in a church class

It's interesting that as you move around that you can be perceived and categorized differently but there is almost no chance of any elevation if you stay in one place.

Royalty usually serve as Stake Presidents, Relief Society Presidents, Bishops, etc. The Middle Class are the ward clerks and Primary teachers, while the fringe are entrusted with such Holy responsibilities as Ushering. Occasionally a sincere Church leaders experiments with calling persons to positions above their class level and usually discover that they do just fine. However, the royalty types are generally very uncomfortable with the practice so it is seldom resorted to by those in authority.

A former Bishop from Canada