Tag Archives: Mormon spy novel

Will Mormons save the Constitution?

According to LDSResources.net, 2010 Idaho GOP gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell, a Mormon, said, “To think that we can save the Constitution without God’s help when the government of the United States is corrupt is absurdity. We are in America’s second Revolutionary War to save our freedom, which we paid for with blood. We need God’s help and I’m not ashamed to ask for it. I do not believe this responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the LDS elders, but I do believe the LDS elders will play a significant role in it, and I believe I am one of those elders. I am tired of people telling me that I can’t bring God and the Constitution into my campaign speeches.”

Rammel’s position appears to be based on the apocryphal LDS “White Horse Prophecy” attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr., Mormonism’s founding prophet. It is paraphrased here by a former president (also purported “prophet, seer, and revelator) of the LDS Church, Harold B. Lee in the early 1970’s:

Joseph Smith said that the time would come when the Constitution would hang as by a thread and at that time when it was thus in jeopardy, the elders of this Church would step forth and save it from destruction.

This prophecy figures prominently in the political thriller By A Thread, in which a young Mormon missionary is convinced by this and other prophetic statements to embark upon a CIA mission that leads him into a conspiratorial underworld that does indeed threaten the Constitution. In fiction, the Mormon belief in this prophecy motivates both good and evil forces to act to fulfill it. Will it have similar power in the real world of politics now that there are two Mormon “elders” running for President?

One wonders if the current LDS candidates for the GOP nomination to President of the United States, Ambassador Jon R. Huntsman and Governor Mitt Romney, the presumed front-runner, harbor feelings similar to Rammel’s regarding the significance of their candidacies. Does either of them expect to be one of “the elders of this Church would step forth and save” the Constitution?

 

President Romney—A fulfillment of prophecy?

With a Mormon now anointed for the Republican U.S. Presidential nomination, it’s worth reflecting on just what orthodox Mormons believe with regard to the faith’s role in the politics “of the last days.”

In my political thriller By A Thread, the young protagonist, a Mormon missionary, gets caught up in intense political intrigue, during which he is schooled in the convergence of Mormon doctrine, its attendant folklore, and the US Constitution. Recruited as a CIA operative, Elder Kevin “Red” Davis is reminded by a church leader of a Mormon scriptural passage that reads:

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.

This, ostensibly, is God speaking. Mormons believe God “established the Constitution” of the United States. This, one might surmise, could imbue candidate Mitt Romney with a sense of “divine right” or “providential inevitability” in his quest for the Presidency. Yes, he’s lost before. But that doesn’t preclude a belief that such a destiny is at some point inevitable. Such speculation is further underscored by an apocryphal pronouncement by the LDS Church’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith.

In order to persuade the hesitant Elder Davis that his CIA mission is divinely inspired, the Mormon leader in By A Thread has the young missionary read aloud the founding prophet’s purported declaration, as stated by Harold B. Lee, a later prophet in the LDS line of succession:

Joseph Smith said that the time would come when the Constitution would hang as by a thread and at that time when it was thus in jeopardy, the elders of this Church would step forth and save it from destruction.

Does Romney also believe this? Who knows. We do know that fellow Mormon Glenn Beck certainly believes it. Beck was very vocal on his recently canceled TV show about his belief that the time referred to in this quote is now. That this is the day of which Joseph Smith spoke, when the Constitution “hang[s] as by a thread.” It is no leap at all for other, similarly inclined Mormons to conclude that Mitt Romney is one of the “elders” (an office to which Romney has been ordained) destined to “save it from destruction.” Romney himself might even believe this.

Now, it depends on your political and religious inclinations to determine whether you see this as a good thing or a bad thing. Fearmongers at both ends of the political spectrum have been declaring the Constitution in jeopardy for at least a decade now. Those on the left cite the Patriot Act and George Bush’s disregard for habeus corpus (enshrined in the Magna Carta centuries before the US Consitution) as evidence; on the right it’s the supposed Muslim and Communist training of Barack Obama that has them convinced. In both cases, the present political campaign is seen as a life and death effort to save the Consititution.

If you’re on the left, Romney is most certainly not your savior. Yet even if you’re on the right, unless you’re a devout Mormon, you might still have trouble seeing a Mormon as divinely inspired to save anything, let alone something as important as your country. For most Mormons however, there will be little doubt who they should vote for. Even those who may have heretofore viewed the “by a thread” prophecy with some skepticism must be asking themselves now whether there might not be a thread of truth in it.

Reader Responses to By A Thread

“As Beaudet adds layer on layer to the story, it’s like a punch in the gut. I kept thinking, this could really happen.…’By a Thread’ has the ring of authenticity—It’s obvious that Beaudet has done his homework when it comes to Mormon customs and culture, to the finer points of our Constitution, in the descriptions of exotic locales such as Vienna and Munich. Most importantly, he understands that love is transcendent.” [This is an excerpt. To read the full review, click here.]

Neil Badders, Minneapolis, MN*
7 November 2010

“Book was fabulous. Very clever method of weaving several interesting storylines into one suspenseful drama. It continued to keep my interest and never had a slow moment. Very enjoyable reading.”

Garth Gordon Hokanson, Sebastopol, CA
17 September 2010

“By a Thread…is is an exceedingly well-crafted novel with the proverbial ‘ordinary men doing extra-ordinary things.’ That’s one of its great strengths. …Beaudet has carefully woven a well-integrated, believable tale of deception, loyalties betrayed, and young love. … By a Thread has a cinematic quality which makes it an easy read, and I hope it’s read by someone who is in a position to make it into a movie.”

John Adrian, New York*
14 October 2010

I just finished this book—goosebumps all the way to the end! I never read during this time of year because I am sooo busy with the beginning of the school year, but I grabbed it up any time I had some extra minutes. I loved this book. It begins by building the characters, locations, and sets the mood. Before you know it, it grabs ahold of you and you can’t put it down. It’s surprisingly on point with current affairs and grips you with the possibilities of things swinging out of control politically. With a refreshing point of view and story line, it brings a new twist to fiction that I haven’t encountered before. It’s a must read! It has great flow, great imagery, and I love the romance! I can’t wait to recommend it to my friends. My only question is—when’s the next one coming out?!!!”

Katie Cawood, Eugene, OR
25 September 2010

“In a nutshell, I enjoyed By A Thread! It has an attention-grabbing plot that seems even more plausible given today’s political atmosphere and extreme agendas. The complex plot reminded me of some of John Grisham’s earlier books, although this book does not have as much information regarding the details of the conspiracy to over-take the United States government that I would have enjoyed. …I would have also enjoyed more descriptive detail about the characters and the setting. I like to be able to form a picture of the characters and locations in a book as well as the intricacies of the plot. That being said, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. It is entertaining and well written.” [This is an excerpt. To read the full review, click here.]

Chris Allen, Martinez, CA *
25 September 2010

“Great book, fun to read. ‘By a Thread’ is a terrorist/political thriller which is well written and hard to put down once you begin reading it. Marty Beaudet displays a remarkable knowledge of his subjects, adding significantly to the depth of the story line. The reader comes away from the book better informed about the United States political system, Vienna and nature of the Mormon missionary system. My concern about a missionary as the main character was quickly put aside as the story developed and I identified with Elder Davis. I am highly recommending this book to my friends.”

Alan Blodgett, Portland, OR
26 September 2010

“What I was expecting was something along the lines of a Dan Brown or Tom Clancy political thriller. What I got was a story about a man struggling with his beliefs and sense of self. This might have seemed like a rather rude change-up, but I was pleasantly surprised that Kevin’s story took over and held my interest throughout. The suspected terrorist, Jassim, is portrayed in a way not often seen in…popular literature or media…. This is a refreshing [change] from the usual stereotypes. I could empathize with both characters, and their trials make the resolution quite satisfying. The political crisis was very real and one could imagine this happening in today’s national climate. …I look forward to seeing what Mr. Beaudet will give us next.” [This is an excerpt. To read the full review, click here.]

Doug Blakeslee, Portland, OR *
29 September 2010

“At a time when many Americans are voicing displeasure about elected officials,…Beaudet’s story of security agency conspiracies and government takeovers is especially timely and compelling. It also adds to the mix the occasional blurred line between politics and organized religions…. Well-written and suspenseful,…it’s definitely an engaging, page-turner of a read… four stars out of five.”

Bob Lind, Echo Magazine (Phoenix, AZ)
October 2010

“…an exceptional book, a labyrinth of situations and outcomes. It is like a Picasso painting, something entirely visible, but hidden by directions of view. …

“It is shocking. It is logical. It is terrifying. Our government is in jeopardy the moment we open the book; we are victims of a cunning sabotage. There are government-shaking plots afoot, myriad conspirators, numbing moral conundrums.

“…a very strong tale. Its strength is its intelligence, its boldness, its honesty…. ‘By A Thread’ is about a young man, a Mormon, and whether he should believe what he has been told, or should believe the opposing feelings within his own heart.” [This is an excerpt. To read the full review, click here.]

Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick, Durango, CO
7 December 2010

“Excellent read! As a rule I don’t choose political thrillers and admit that I probably wouldn’t have read this one if the author had not been a twitter friend. However, I’m glad I did read it even though it scares me to think that something like this story could happen. The book is very fast paced and holds your interest from the very first page, I highly recommend.”

Kaye Starley, via Goodreads.com
1 April 2011

“What a wonderfully fun book! Great (and complex) plot full of fun twists and turns, good character development, well researched. Well done! A thoroughly enjoyable read. (Although a bit scary how possible it all… seems….) Is a sequel in the works…?”

—David Wertheimer, (Guemes Island, WA)
13 December 2010

“A fun read and a great page-turner…perfect for the stormy season when you want a good book to lift you out of your winter doldrums. I fell in love with the characters. When do we get to see the movie?”

Paul Beaudet (Guemes Island, WA)
1 November 2010

“When I was a missionary in Rome, our mission president told us to be on the lookout for an orange van. Men had threatened to kidnap two missionaries and force them to confess to being CIA agents. I loved reading this novel, ‘By A Thread,’ where it turns out the myth is true. The book is well-researched. I felt as if I were really in Vienna and the surrounding areas. The plot is outrageous and yet still believable.…I loved the book and actually think it would make a pretty good movie, too. I expect good things from Marty Beaudet’s future novels.” [This is an excerpt. To read the full review, click here. ***SPOILER ALERT***]

J. Townsend, Seattle, WA
11 November 2010

* These reviews were solicited by the author, based on the reviewers’ background, experience, and reading habits. Other than being provided with a free review copy of By A Thread, these readers were not compensated for their opinions, nor directed in any way. The full reviews have been published elsewhere on this blog and have only been edited for grammatical clarity. All other reviews on this page are the spontaneous response of readers.

Spies—Reality vs Fiction

Hollywood loves its shootouts, car chases, and explosions. And to some extent these have a basis in real life: who hasn’t watched one or more “breaking news” high-speed chases live on TV? (Not to mention the OJ Simpson “low-speed” chase seared into everyone’s memory.) And escalating gang violence has inured us to the shock and outrage we should feel when gunshots ring out on our city streets.

Yet when it comes to espionage in books or on the silver screen, writers often get it wrong. Either from a desire to sate the audience’s lust for violence, or out of sheer ignorance of the subject, writers often depict gun-wielding spies stalking one another in dark alleys, engaging in at least one shootout or car chase at regular intervals. This is far from reality.

The very nature of intelligence gathering—the primary activity of a spy—means operating below the radar. That’s what “clandestine” means: “hidden, or sub-rosa.” A shootout in broad daylight or a high-speed car chase is almost unheard of. The rare exception might have been extractions (assisted escapes) from Berlin in the days of the Wall, when an operation was blown or exposed at a checkpoint. But by and large, a good spy novel has none of these cheap Hollywood devices.

In my political thriller By A Thread, the young Mormon missionary Kevin “Red” Davis is recruited by the CIA for a “one-off” intelligence-gathering assignment. While it doesn’t go as planned—and therein lies the excitement—our protagonist never even owns a gun. And although there are men in cars hurrying to catch opponents fleeing on foot, there are no dramatic crashes, explosions, or shootouts. They aren’t realistic and they aren’t necessary to sustain the drama. The stakes of the action, coupled with the character arc that occurs throughout the story, are sufficient to do that. (Just ask the numerous reviewers who were riveted by the story!)

Look at Jason Bourne: he lives by his wits, not by weapons. Sure, he blows someone up in Munich, he kills some people in unusual ways, and he engages in far too many extended vehicle chases to be realistic, but gunfights are not a part of daily life for the clandestine operative.  The last thing you want to do when you’re seeking secrets in a foreign country is to draw attention to yourself. Brandishing a weapon is the quickest way to do that!

And while there seems to be a morbid fascination with death in all facets of our popular culture, it isn’t always necessary in a good spy novel. Sure, a few people die in By A Thread. But the audience is not present for those deaths. Knowledge of them is sufficient to drive the well-crafted plot. Check it out for yourself, if you don’t believe me!

Click here for more info on By A Thread, the political thriller with a heart.

By A Thread Anagrams!

Of the 29 named characters in By A Thread, 18 have names that are anagrams of names of real people. See if you can figure out which names are anagrams and unscramble them! I’ll give you a free password to read my novella Losing Addison just for trying! (Enter your answers in the comments field below.)

Here are the names of all 29 characters and their roles in By A Thread (in order of appearance). Remember, only 18 of them are anagrams. All answers are the names of persons in the public sphere and may be found by Googling. (Wikipedia is also very helpful.) HINT: All but one of the names are of U.S. citizens.

1. John B. Sepeida — Vice President of the United States
2. Kevin “Red” Davis — Mormon missionary (protagonist)
3. Craig Pearson — Mormon missionary
4. Jassim al-Shammari — Kuwaiti terror suspect
5. Sami Jabarrah — Syrian detainee
6. (Captain) Josh E. “Jeep” Mayes — Muslim chaplain
7. Rolf Clarine — CIA operative
8. Vince Paskey — NSA technician
9. Raisa al-Hadiyeh — DIA interpreter
10. Marc Staehli — CIA Vienna station chief
11. Anne Lipscoy — Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
12. Antonio Palatjen — U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
13. Helen Amamure — White House Chief of Staff
14. (General) Jon Majessel — National Security Advisor
15. Tomas Bergert — U.S. Secretary of Defense
16. (Admiral) Lemuel Chalmin — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
17. Pete Lontana — Director, CIA
18. John Sorenson — President, Austria Vienna Mission of the Mormon Church
19. Bob Devore — AP reporter
20. Gherity Monteith — U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
21. Burt Oberera — White House Legal Counsel
22. Charlton Yillin — U.S. Secretary of State
23. Frau Schermann — Landlady at CIA safe house
24. Walther — waiter/friend of Jassim
25. Jasper LeCamp — U.S. Director of National Intelligence (acting)
26. Fawzi al-Badry — Jassim’s cousin
27. Leo Richerd — U.S. Attorney General
28. Annika “Mutti” Müller — landlady to LDS missionaries
29. Olin Castanian (aka Stanian Lacoin, an anagram, but not the answer!) — U.S. Supreme Court justice

Good luck! 🙂

By A Thread: Excellent read! 4 stars

“Excellent read! As a rule I don’t choose political thrillers and admit that I probably wouldn’t have read this one if the author had not been a twitter friend. However, I’m glad I did read it even though it scares me to think that something like this story could happen. The book is very fast paced and holds your interest from the very first page, I highly recommend.”

Kaye Starley, via Goodreads
1 April 2011

 

 

Film Explores Love Between LDS Missionaries

In the novel By A Thread, the main character is a Mormon missionary who wrestles with a forbidden love affair while carrying out a top-secret assignment. The new movie, “The Falls,” also explores a taboo relationship.
(See original post here.)

Jon Garcia has just announced the release of “The Falls.” Set in Portland, Oregon, this independent film explores the relationship between two LDS missionaries who fall in love.

“RJ travels to a small town in Oregon with Elder Merrill to serve their mission and teach the words of Joseph Smith,” Garcia wrote. “Living together and sharing the challenge of leaving home, the two men help each other discover their strengths. They share a passion for their faith and learn to express their feelings, risking the only community they have for a forbidden intimacy.”

See the trailer at www.indiegogo.com/TheFalls and follow the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/The-Falls/176357012389741 .

CIA—Missionary Connection?

The following AP article, published in BYU’s Daily Universe back in 1981, addresses the idea that Mormon missionaries are also CIA operatives. While there is no confirmation of this common assumption, the CIA’s heavy Utah recruiting efforts are confirmed, just as the character John Sorenson describes in the political thriller By A Thread.

SALT LAKE CITY – Traveling in pairs, clad in distinctive white shirts and ties and wearing their hair close-cropped, young LDS missionaries abroad are being mistaken for CIA officers.

“I was accused of bring CIA,” said Floyd Rose, a former missionary in Spain who is now a student at church-owned Brigham Young University. “We were different than most Americans and some of the people really believed it.” He said he was asked about the CIA as least once every two weeks.

“People were always asking us if we were CIA,” agreed Mike McQuain, another BYU student who did his missionary work in France. “People would ask us at doors and yell ‘CIA’ at us as we went by.”

Jeff Turley said the CIA label was a standing joke among missionaries in Peru. For laughs, he said, some of them would tease the Peruvians by whipping off a shoe and speaking into it, or do the same with a buzzing digital watch.

The LDS Church, which has more than 30,000 missionaries worldwide, denies any connection with the CIA. But the confusion is understandable — the CIA does some of its successful recruiting in predominantly LDS Utah.

This summer, the CIA conducted an experimental radio advertising campaign in Utah. Charles Jackson, the CIA’s chief recruiting officer, said “well over 100 applicants responded to the radio spots.”

Jackson said the agency is looking for potential overseas case officers, intelligence analysts, scientists and computer specialists, the latter two categories difficult to recruit because of competition from industry.

“Utah is one of our good sources,” said Denver CIA recruiter Jack Hansen, now in Provo to recruit at BYU, whose student newspaper – The Daily Universe — is currently running CIA job advertisements.

“A lot of people here have language or foreign culture experience,” he said. “That’s what we look for.

Many young LDS men spend two years proselyting for the church. Those sent to foreign missions return with foreign language ability and knowledge of specific countries. BYU records indicate that about 6,700 people in its 26,000 – member student body are former missionaries.

“We’ve never had any trouble placing anyone who has applied to the CIA,” said Dr. Gary Williams, head of the BYU Asian studies department. “Every year, they take almost anybody who applies.”

Former LDS missionaries have the three qualities the CIA wants: foreign language ability, training in a foreign culture and former residence in a foreign country, Williams said.

In addition, Williams said, “our Mormon culture has always been more supportive of the government than American culture as a whole.”

[See the original article here.]

Swiss Ban Missionaries as of 2012

The Mormon temple in Zollikofen, near Bern after its inauguration in 1955

Swiss LDS Temple in Zollikofen

A group of senators and representatives in the United States is calling on Switzerland to allow Mormon missionaries to continue working in Switzerland after 2012, despite a de facto ban.

The new regulations stem from a bilateral accord on the free movement of people between Switzerland and the European Union that came into effect in 2002. In effect, this agreement allows European nationals to seek employment in Switzerland while significantly restricting work permits for people from all other countries.

A decision by the Swiss courts established that missionary work is considered gainful employment and therefore subject to quotas.

The Swiss embassy responded to the request by Congress members—who included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, [himself a Mormon]—in an October letter offering hope for a possible solution through dialogue and other means.

Under an existing transition agreement, a maximum of 80 Mormon missionaries from the US were allowed into Switzerland in 2010, and 50 will be permitted in 2011. As of 2012, there will be no future  admissions of missionaries of any denomination from any third party states, according to the Swiss embassy.


Excerpted from article:  US lawmakers criticise Swiss missionary ban by Karin Kamp, swissinfo.ch, Karin Kamp

 

 

 

 

Teen Faith: Mormon vs. Mainstream

In the political thriller, By A Thread, Mormon missionary Kevin “Red” Davis struggles to make sense of a world that is far different culturally and politically than the insular LDS society in which he was raised. At 19, he was sent out to change the world, but finds it changing him instead.

For an insight into the mind of a typical LDS teenager, as compared to the average American teen, consider this excerpt from the Book Review: Teen Angels: What, if anything, do they believe? by Eve Tushnet. The book she reviewed was “What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church” by Kenda Creasy Dean, Oxford, 264 pp., $24.95

…American teenagers follow a mutant creed best understood as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Almost Christian, a popularization of the results of the 2002-05 National Study of Youth and Religion, attempts to help Christian parents, youth pastors, and others who are alarmed at the shakiness and incoherence of most teens’ faith.

The content of that faith is simple and as American as a smile in an airport. The tenets of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) include belief in a god who watches over us and orders life on earth, and whose major moral concern is that humans should be nice to one another

MTD cuts across old denominational and confessional boundaries. It’s most prevalent among mainline Protestants and Catholics and least prevalent among Mormons, black Protestants, and “conservative Protestants.” In fact, this belief system seems designed to minimize the importance of religious difference, partly as a way of defusing the tensions and passions of a pluralist society. It’s as if believing that other people are wrong about God in some important ways is bad manners.

Mormons, by contrast, challenge their teenagers and require a lot of time, study, and leadership from them. Mormon parents rise at dawn to go over their church’s history and doctrine with their children. More than half of the Mormon youth in the study had given a presentation in church in the past six months. They frequently shared public testimony and felt that they were given some degree of decision-making power within their community. They shape their plans for the immediate future around strong cultural pressures toward mission trips and marriage. Whatever one thinks of the actual beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it seems obvious that both adult Mormons and the teens who follow them really, really believe.

Here is the full book review, as it appears in the Weekly Standard.