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Democrats don't have to be opposed to opposition to homosexual marriage. Ten years ago they weren't. Twenty years ago there were plenty of pro-life Democrats. If the Republicans want to make these things partisan issues, the Democrats don't have to let them. On the other hand, if the current Democrats really are wedded to certain positions, I don't see the problem with Republicans forcing a situation where differences are exposed and voters can decide how much that matters to them.

Let's turn the thing around. Is putting a concept up for a vote somewhere all it takes to remove it from the realm of things Church leaders can talk about and have a position on?

When they read that official statement in church a few weeks ago, I was shocked. You're right, they do urge us to express ourselves, but the context of the letter almost begs us to express ourselves according to the their proclamations that were given previously about the matter. Then, like you mention, Elder Nelson's presence at this thing sends yet another statement. It seems like the church wants to be "in the politics but not of the politics." I'm surprised the church still has tax exempt status after this last one.

As a Wisconsin resident, I don't see him going very far in the polls (his Mormonism might hurt him, despite his liberal leanings), but then again, that would be sweet if he made it.

It seems like most Mormon Democrat leaders are dolts if they don't get the unspoken rational for LDS church leaders being against SSM. It's polygamy stupid!!! Societal acceptance of alternative marriage is a can of worms for us. Over a few generations, the potential loss in membership could be sizable. They have a vested interest in maintaining a societal stigma against polygamy.

This Kennedy guy sounds like he's already headed out the door if his talking to the press, the inappropriateness of local church intervention aside. Again, hard to take such a dolt seriously.

On the tax exempt issue, as the politically active black churches well know, there's a big difference between law and enforcement.

National Democrats’ poor grasp of coalition politics is mystifying. They used to be such masters at it. Bear in mind Al Gore, even losing his home state, would have been pres if they had handling the Elian Gonzalez situation like a sane politician (“It’s a local Florida family court custody matter on which we have no comment”).

One could go on and on.

This account of religion as a coercive instrument, on both sides, is getting stale. What ever happened to persuasion, long suffering and love unfeigned?

Steve EM: " ... unspoken rational for LDS church leaders being against SSM. It's polygamy stupid!!!"

Unspoken is right! I made a similar comment (albeit less succiently and directly than Steve EM) on the BCC discussion last week about polygamy being a factor in the mind of church leaders and got no response one way or the other.

I guess my question is why it (the view that polygamy colors the SSM debate) is unspoken. Is it because the notion is obvious or because it is obviously ridiculous?

Being a LDS has to mean something. Implying that Mr. Kennedy's stake presidency overstepped its bounds by issuing Mr. Kennedy a stern warning sounds like a desire to relegate Mormonism to the same sad status held by Catholicism. For the last five years I’ve forgone attempting to obtain a temple recommend because I know that if I were completely honest with the interviewer I would disqualify myself simply based on my beliefs—though not those based on abortion or SSM. I pay tithing, I’m honest, I pray, I have a loving relationship with my wife and children, and, for all intents and purposes, I measure myself a pretty good (maybe righteous) guy. But when the Bishop asks me about whether or not I have a testimony of the BoM or of the “Restored Gospel” or whether or not I sustain the Prophet and other leaders I have to take a pass because I know that my interpretation of what is required by those phrases differs greatly from that of Church leadership. For me to answer affirmatively on those questions would be disingenuous. I had a Bishop delve a bit into my self-imposed policy and upon hearing me out on some of those beliefs he had to grudgingly agree that I was probably taking the correct choice. Individuals such as Mr. Kennedy frost my a** to no end because he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Mr. Kennedy is either being dishonest to the electorate or to Church leadership. With respect to abortion, I think church doctrine does not prohibit a pro-choice policy so his endorsements from NARAL and Planned Parenthood don’t seem to pose a problem. But now that the Church has pretty clearly come out against SSM and in favor of a narrow definition of marriage (1 woman to 1 man) maintaining and advocating beliefs contrary to that position puts one squarely at odds with Church doctrine and consequently would require one to make a choice with respect to allegiance. Mr. Kennedy now can choose to change his own views and actions and hold on to his temple recommend or he can decide that his political career is more important and continue advocating a position at odds with Church leadership and doctrine. Mr. Kennedy’s only out seems to be that, as of today, advocating acceptance of SSM is not an official part of the Democratic party platform so from a political point of view he is free to change is advocacy stance without dissociating from the Democratic party (though doing so would certainly terminate his career in WI).

If Mr. Kennedy is so convinced he’s right then why not willingly turn in his temple recommend?

Is it because the notion is obvious or because it is obviously ridiculous?

Steve EM's assertion is half right. The Church does indeed have a vested interest in maintaining a societal stigma against polygamy. But even if there were no such stigma, it would still be opposed to SSM.

I had a Bishop delve a bit into my self-imposed policy and upon hearing me out on some of those beliefs he had to grudgingly agree that I was probably taking the correct choice.

I'm in a similar position, but my son is about to leave on a mission and I'm going to try for a recommend so I can escort him. I made my position on the FMA public last time around, but our current bishop was not around then, so he doesn't know about it. I have no idea whether he cares. When I suggested that my heresy might warrant releasing me from my teaching position in the HP group, both the HP group leader (a strong FMA advocate) and the former bishop (an FMA opponent) both firmly rejected the notion. A member of the current stake presidency has indicated that he largely agrees with my position. I'm torn as to whether I should even bring it up in the interview.

In my experience, most bishops will punt on such things and leave it up to me to just answer the question "yes" or "no." On another occasion, I handed a bishop a manifesto of sorts that outlined my less-than-orthodox beliefs (including that the first chapter of Abraham is not inspired). My wife was shocked by it. The bishop said he didn't agree with everything but didn't see anything disqualifying.

At any rate, I'm inclined to cut Br. Kennedy some slack.

"maintaining and advocating beliefs contrary to that position puts one squarely at odds with Church doctrine"

Are (semi-)official political positions necessarily fully synonymous with doctrine?

[Before anyone avoids the issue by picking apart my wording. We do NOT have overt official positions from the church. We have pieces of a puzzle (The Proclamation with its doctrinal guidance, appearances by church leaders in support of the amendment, and the First Presidncy letter) that we fit together into what we interpret as official positions on recent issues. You know what I'm getting at, official or semi-official: Are political stances taken by church leaders synonymous with doctrine? The argument can be made that they are based on doctrine, of course...]

Dave's question seems to be who was out of line: Br. Kennedy or his Stake Presidency? Whether one's political leanings are "wrong" or "right" seems unrelated to following counsel from priesthood leaders (in the form of letters from the First Presidency or conversation with the Stake Presidency). Perhaps Br. Kennedy's (and our?) sacrifice to lay upon the alter is what he (we?) thinks is intellectually "right" in order to be obedient.

The "Mitt Romney Problem" asserts that the Mormon Church requires the absolute allegiance of its followers. For Mitt's sake, I hope this Stake leaves Kennedy alone, or it will make Mitt's denials look a little suspect. Who's next? Harry Reid, the highest ranking Mormon politician ever? The Church (and in this case I mean over-zealous local leaders not Salt Lake) needs to leave its politicians alone.

Ronan: In that case, perhaps the issue here is - What constitutes an "over-zealous local leader" and how should any member (politician or not) respond?

We'll I'm among the less orthodox who fudges (no, I don’t lie) on Temple recommend interviews. I even think JFS II was and BKP is a demonstrably false prophet. But I think this Kennedy should have resign his membership before talking to the press about this, even though I think his local leaders’ intervention was grossly inappropriate.

Regarding the church, SSM and polygamy, yes, our leaders would oppose SSM no matter what. But gays/lesbians will always be a small, ungrowing fraction of the population. Moreover, if the phenomenon is largely genetic, as most believe, open homosexuality means fewer gays/lesbians in coming generations. So why the disproportional church attention and effort on this issue? What is the real motivator here? Polygamy!!! And it isn’t a slippery slope fear. Any form of alternative marriage immediately opens the door to all forms.

Paul (#7), I'm not sure your bishop is the last word on that question. You seem to think recent actions and statements by LDS leaders have turned LDS temples into Republican Temples. I disagree. Had they realized how many LDS local leaders and members were going to jump to the same conclusion, they might have stayed out of the debate.

Slanted anecdotes of outrageous abuse supposedly committed by the big mean church against poor helpless innocents do not constitute evidence or proof of anything other than the author's predilection for such stories.

Seemingly I view this phenomenon from the other side of some hypothetical wall, and to me the picture apparently looks very different. While it is inevitable that some such experiences must be happening in the church-wide arena, I suspect that church leader->church member abuse is much less common than the antithesis. A few scurrilous tales from those with an axe to grind simply do not justify any indictment or suspicion against church leaders.

It's polygamy stupid!!!

Amen Steve! I never noticed that. If the amendment had passed, the church could permanently wipe its butt clean of polygamy forever. And, as one of history's funny little ironies, it seems that the church has become one of the biggest and foremost propagandists for anti-polygamy, and this (lame) amendment would solidify that for them.

Agreed, Ronan. Let them govern how they want. I mean, it doesn't take much to see that some of our leaders in the (distant) past were naturalists, others humanists, some pessimists, and even some (gasp!) liberal.

It is possible to be a Mormon and a liberal (here! here!), and some of the non-SLC membership/leadership shows that this sort of balance can peacefully co-exist.

But yeah, poo-poo for Romney if the Kennedy problem escalates and gets public attention.

I am reminded of a story. I can't provide any names or dates or other details.

A member of the church, probably not higher ranking than a bishop or maybe not even that, was publicly chastised by Brigham Young for his behavior or statements or perhaps for wearing a colored shirt to church on Sunday. The story goes that Brigham said after, "Well, now that I've told you you're wrong, I suppose you'll go apostacize."

The gentleman replied, "Well, Brigham, if it was your church, I would. But it's my church as much as yours. You can say what you like about me, but I'm not going to leave my church because of it."

The church does not "belong" to the suits in Salt Lake. It belongs to us.

I'm not advocating any kind of overthrow; I'm just saying - I get to choose which doctrines I believe are true and which I believe are false. They get to correct me if I am wrong, if I decide to speak publicly about my opinions.

I'm allowed to be wrong. So are they.

Dave re #15:

I specifically went out of my way to state that I don't think the issue surrounding Mr. Kennedy is a Democrat/Republican issue, for now, but that it would become one if the Democratic party adopted an official plank in its platform advocating SSM. To imply or argue that the Church's official position is that SSM should not be made legal is disingenuous and decietful. The entire issue is about Mr. Kennedy's behavior and whether or not he will continue to advocate for SSM. If he insists on doing so he should turn in his recommend if his SP asks.

Mormonism (or Catholicism, or Hinduism, or any other -ism) should mean something and not be some empty vessel into which anyone can pour whatever they want. As one who holds himself to a higher standard than anyone else is willing to do, I would be very disappointed in Mr. Kennedy if he insists on perpetuating this deception and his stake leadership as well if they permitted it to continue free of consequence.

Thanks for the comment, Paul. I'm a little confused -- based on prior statements, it seems clear the Church has taken the "official" position that SSM should *not* be granted legal recognition as "marriage." That, of course, is different from requiring that all members oppose SSM or support legislation such as the recently proposed amendment -- that was not part of the package, although some over-zealous local leaders seem to think it was.

You are free, of course, as a person or as a Mormon to follow your own "higher standard." How that leads to you labeling Kennedy's position or that of his Stake Presidency counselor as "deception" is a little murky to me. Kennedy's not deceiving anyone: his positions are quite clear. Just because he doesn't see things the way you do doesn't mean he is deceiving anyone or even that he's wrong.

While as already indicated, I think this Kennedy's local church leaders are out of bounds, but I can't cut the guy any slack, because, until he resigns from the church, we shouldn't know anything about this. Seems clear to me, the guy's an AH.

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone"

It amazes me to see so many judgemental people on here...

How in any way is Brian Kennedy deceitful? And Steve EM. How exactly is he an AH?

The deception exists because either Mr. Kennedy is lying to the electorate by purporting to advocate for SSM when, in fact, he opposes it or he is lying to his bishop/SP when he affirms that he does not advocate any position contrary to those of the Church. If he's lying to the electorate then he is not being honest in his dealings with his fellow man. If he's lying to his bishop/SP about advocating for SSM then... that one's easy. If either situation be true then he disqualifies himself from holding a temple recommend. Compounding the complexity of the situation is that Mr. Kennedy is seeking public office where he will be participating in the lawmaking process. Recent action taken by Church leadership makes the Church's position on the appropriate status of SSM quite clear. If Mr. Kennedy finds that position to be erroneous then let him say so and in the process voluntarily turn in his recommend with much fanfare. Instead by going public with this he's trying to bully Church leadership into kowtowing to his own desires. If they permit him to do so then they should be ashamed of themselves.

Josh,
He's an AH for discussing this publicly without first resigning his membership. If he's not an AH, he's a politically incompetent moron who will make a poor legislator.

Go take a look at D-Train's latest post: Temple Recommends and SSM.

There is talk here that you cannot hold a T.R. and hold a position contrary to that of the church. I simply do not agree. I recently went through my interview, and the question is do you belong to an organization that is in opposition to the church. (or something close to that). I am a Democrat. Personally I see that in the balance of positions, Democrats are closing to what I think of as good Christian and LDS values (caring for the poor and unfortunate, ensuring equality and peace)

Personally I would have a harder time answering the question if I was a Republican. I am not trying to bait, but there are far more Republican positions in my mind that are antithetical to LDS teachings. (support for corporations over individuals, unbridled capitalism, unwillingness to take care of those less fortunate, militarism.)

Steve, Paul, I think it's up to his ecclessiastical leaders to determine through proper channels if he should turn in his recommend or lose his Church Membership.

Judge not, lest ye be not judged. Just because Mr. Kennedy opposes a political measure does not mean that he is opposing the doctrines of the Church. That's just my opinion.

No offense guys. I'm sure you're very congenial and decent fellows. I just hate it when fellow Mormons claim to love freedom and celebrate America's protection of religion and then browbeat those who disagree with you.

Why can't someone hold a political view that SSM should be legal, and also believe the church's statement that it is contrary to the plan of salvation? I certainly don't hold everyone to the same standards of living that I choose through my choice of faith. I am perfectly comfortable supporting SSM for the country, and opposing it spiritually. I'm willing to bet my happiness on Mormonism, but I'm not willing to place that same bet for someone else.

The problem is that the church has come out in favor of a political position, instead of asserting their theological position. The church should stick to "homosexual behavior is a sin", and let individual church members decide for themselves how the politics should follow. Mormon sin definitions should not be the basis for deciding how the country handles the needs and wants of a diverse society.

There are other more compelling arguments for why SSM is bad for our country than the "God defined marriage as one man and one woman (sometimes)" argument, although they don't quite persuade me...

How the heck would you know if someone is an incompetent legislator? Are you a politician. If you're going to make generalizations like that, back it up with some facts or personal anecdotes or something.

Josh,
1) I already said I thought the actions of this Kennedy's local church leaders were inappropriate. But is was worse for Kennedy to discuss a private matter like this with the press. It shows gross disloyalty to an organization he is still a member of. If he resigned his membership, I'd have no beef with him saying whatever he wants. Again, the guy is either an AH or a moron.

2) Any organization, including a legislative body, requires discretion and loyalty among key players to make things happen. Natural leaders instinctively know how to play the game by age 4-5. If you don't have those traits, you never get to be a key player. This Kennedy has demonstrated he's a not-ready-for-prime-time lightweight amateur, socially still at age 3. And a US congressman who lacks the potential to rise into the leadership can never effectively serve their district. Yes, the guy is politically inept, as proved by his actions in this matter.

Steve EM, you make it sound as if Kennedy breached a confidence in sharing the communication directed to him by a member of his stake presidency. To me it sounds like this was a simple conversation, or possibly a letter. [And even if it were part of a confidential TR conversation between Kennedy and the SP counselor, confidentiality in that context is to protect the privacy interests of the individual being "examined." If that's the scenario, it's his confidence to breach if he so chooses.]

It's odd to see you playing "shoot the messenger," Steve. The story here is that local LDS officials suddenly feel they have the green light from SLC to run politically liberal Mormons through the progressive LDS disciplinary system, starting with a termination of temple privileges. If that's not what senior LDS leaders intend, they need to send a clear contrary signal to local leaders.

Just to elevate the discussion a bit, here is Bryan Kennedy's bio from his campaign website.

Dave, thanks! you said it better than I ever could have.

I'll give it a try.

Unless it was a Personal Priesthood interview then I don't see why Brian Kennedy feels he is obligated to keep his mouth shut. Loyalty for the organization? What are you Steve EM, a Mafia goon?

I don't think that Brian Kennedy has yet to prove that he ought to resign his membership. Why does he need to leave the Church to speak out on the inappropriate actions of a Stake Presidency member?

Dave,
My point was that a political astute individual, if they cared about a given organization, would have appealed the matter privately within that organization and not publicly embarrassed the organization, as this Kennedy has done. Alternately, he could have resigned from the organization and done whatever he wanted. While I’m not CEO of my firm yet, but I do know I would have never made it to middle management and my present executive level without practicing discretion and loyalty with people whom I often privately disagree. The term “team player” comes to mind. A congressperson without those skills will never be an effective servant to his/her district. This guy is a lightweight.

Steve, there's nothing about it on Kennedy's campaign website. Kennedy didn't publicize the conversation, a newspaper (the SL Trib) did. Assuming they check their facts before they publish (newspapers do this sort of thing), they probably talked to Kennedy to confirm their account of the conversation or communication, but I don't think it is correct to say that Kennedy is publicizing it.

But the question remains: Why did the SP counselor have this conversation? What is he trying to accomplish? Is the SP counselor trying to pressure a US Congressional candidate to change his public statements to align with the SP counselor's own views (i.e., that counselor's conception of "official" LDS political views)? There are serious problems with an LDS official attempting to exercise that sort of influence.

On the other hand, maybe he was just sharing personal counsel with Kennedy, suggesting that his political views would subject him to LDS discipline, starting with termination of temple privileges. Since being publicly "out of harmony" with senior leaders is grounds for excommunication, the SP counselor's comments clearly threaten further disciplinary action. This view of the SP counselor's comments raises serious problems as well.

Dave
I already condemned the local leader’s actions more than once, and it seems you’re challenging me to defend the thing I condemned.

Back to this Kennedy, someone gave this to the press. I can only imagine Kennedy or the local leader. If it was a third party, the appropriate respond from Kennedy and the local leader should have been “I have no idea where you got that idea. There’s nothing to discuss.”, or words to that effect. If it was the local leader, in any unit I’ve been in, he’d have been released in a heartbeat and likely exed later. I’ve seen leaders released for far less. That leaves us with Mr. Kennedy as the most likely source of the story.

Whether or not Kennedy was right to discuss it (to whatever extent he did), I would think this would help him politically. He's running as a Democrat, and I'm guessing that Democrats are glad to know he won't be taking marching orders from Salt Lake.

And I don't think he will lose too much sleep over possibly losing Wisconsin's Mormon voters (1% of the population seems about right).

So, while I don't know the details of what happened, I would say this story doesn't make him a political lightweight; it seems quite politically savvy to me.

APJ,
There's a big difference between getting elected to congress and being effective there. I was speaking about the latter. Moreover, if elected to a republican leaning district like his, he'd better be darn effective, or he won't get relected.

It's worth noting that Mr. Kennedy's position on choice and same sex civil unions -- not marriage -- is precisely what Mitt Romney's was in 1994. The tax status comment was tongue-in-cheek: no Democrat is serious that the IRS should challenge the not-for-profit status of churches that participated in last week's rally at the White House.

I'm surprised that Kennedy would be questioned by a member of the SP in Madison of all places. When I lived there, most church members were somewhat liberal, and even if they weren't, they were fairly decent to people who were. I don't suppose anyone knows the name of the SP member?

Responding, to Comment #41 by, I assume, PJJ:

Mr. Kennedy lives in Milwaukee, not Madison. As I understood it, the comments from the counselor in the SP were informal ones, not part of a confidential interview of any kind. Apparently the counselor is a "good guy." Mr. Kennedy did NOT seek the publicity, the reporter sought him.

Thanks for some facts, RB. Assuming they are accurate, they make sense with the context of the brief remarks in the SL Trib and with the fact there has been nothing said about it anywhere else.

FROM BRYAN KENNEDY----I wanted to add my $0.02 worth to the discussion. Someone brought this blog posting to my attention and I thought that I would take a look.

I appreciate the commentary--both pro and con--and am a big believer in dialogue. If we cannot dialogue then we cannot reach practical, common sense solutions to anything we face as a people. For the record, I am an active and worthy member of the Church. I pay tithing, do my home teaching (better than 50% of the time), and attend my meetings (when possible). I hold a current temple recommend and I used to attend the temple regularly. Campaigning full-time has limited my temple attendance and has made it difficult to get to my meetings each week. Nearly every Sunday, I have been speaking at many other religious institutions about my belief in Christ and how that has impacted my political leanings. (We also have afternoon church meetings, and anyone with small children who still nap will agree that afternoon church is hard.)

As for how the situation made it to the press, I shared it with a few friends and family. I did NOT publicize it nor did I make a big deal out of it. Someone apparently passed the information along, because I was contacted a few weeks after the meeting with my SP counselor by a reporter. My situation was mentioned in a small piece in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Here is my version of what happened: During Sunday School I was asked to step into a stake office to speak with a counselor in the SP. He is a friend and used to be my Bishop. He told me that a number of members of the church in the area had complained to the SP that my stand on abortion was "out of line with church standards." I was further informed that my endorsement by NARAL and Planned Parenthood put me "in bed with groups that oppose the teachings of the church." He added that: 1) either I had not been truthful in my temple recommend interview and I affiliate with anti-Mormon groups, and the failure to mention this would question my "being honest in all my dealings" or 2) I am really anti-choice and am merely espousing the pro-choice stand to get support from Democrats, and this too would call into question my "being honest in all my deaings."

The issue of SSM came up because he was curious if I was against the Church on that issue as well. I told him that I support civil unions but oppose SSM. I believe that we can ensure equal rights through civil unions, but protect religious institutions from being forced to perform SSM ceremonies by removing them from the marrying game altogether. I would perfer that we have civil union contracts that are made official by the justice of the peace. If we are part of a religious community, we could then take that civil union contract to our priest/pastor/bishop/rabbi/et al and have a religious ceremony performed within the faith community.

The problem is that the US is one of the only countries that allows religious leaders to act as proxy for the state and to perform the legal ceremony.

My statement on choice can be found at:

http://www.bk2006.org/platform/plat_wi.html


My position on civil unions is pasted here. It is largely in reaction to a proposed constitutional amendment in Wisconsin. This proposed amendment has 2 sentences. The first defines marriage; the second makes it illegal to extend any sort of benefits like those of marriage to anyone unmarried. It is harsh and would actually hurt more heterosexual couples in Wisconsin than gay couples:

I believe marriage is central to our culture. It is a journey, a partnership, and the realization of love through a lifelong public commitment. To me, this kind of union means love and commitment. I support the American traditions of freedom, fairness, human dignity, and full equality under the law. I recognize that the benefits of these unions go far beyond matters of inheritance and the implications of health care coverage. Equality under the law includes social and cultural, as well as partnership benefits. I am speaking of equal rights, NOT special rights; therefore I support the freedom to enter civil unions.

I oppose the proposed amendment to the Wisconsin constitution to ban civil unions and marriage. Here is why:

• The ban will hurt real Wisconsin families. It would deny critical rights and responsibilities, like the ability to share health and retirement benefits or take bereavement leave in the case of a death in the family.
• Regardless of people’s view on marriage, if you spend 30 years of your life with someone you deserve more than being treated like a stranger in a hospital room, during funeral planning, and dealing with inheritance problems.
• This ban would seriously jeopardize any benefits for unmarried couples or common law couples, such as domestic partner benefits, powers of attorney, and other existing protections.
• This measure would write discrimination into our state constitution.

Thanks for the clarifications, Bryan. I appreciate you taking the time to follow the discussion here and post additional details. Best of luck with a tough campaign in Wisconsin!

Regards to Dave's comments as to the accuracy of my earlier statement: they make sense for all the reasons you stated, Dave. And, they may make more sense given the fact that I am the writer/reporter of the piece that mentioned Bryan Kennedy in the SL Tribune. This has been discussed in other groups on the net.

Thanks for weighing in with comments, RB -- I didn't quite close the loop on you and the article at first. Nice work.

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