Got any dirt on Steven Covey? At least one concerned anti-Mormon needs it, and fast, in order to stop
Covey from having so much influence in American schools.
The dirt-hungry defender of children just knows that somehow the principles that leadership guru
Stephen R. Covey is spreading in his professional work--all that Seven Habits stuff and its educational
derivatives--are tied to Mormon doctrine and thus must be feared and stopped.
Allow me to digress to explain how I am so keenly aware of an anti-Mormon's needs.
Not all so-called anti-Mormon sites are equally offensive. Perhaps the most offensive, though, is
MormonCult.org, a shallow and amateur site that I must admit actually succeeds in proving that
Mormonism is a cult. Many seeking to blast the Church have turned to that site, and some anti-Mormon
crusaders have sent their followers there to solidify their anti-cult training.
Relying on long-standing dictionary definitions in which a "cult" is a religious organization, the vile
perpetrator of MormonCult.org shows that Mormons are in fact part of a religious organization. This
may be the best and only logical way to show that Mormons are a "cult."
This logical, iron-clad, dictionary-based approach departs from the traditional path of anti-cult ministers
who rely on specially contrived and highly questionable definitions that often boil down to a cult being
any religion they disagree with. The disadvantage to taking a logical, dictionary-based approach, or any
other reasonable approach, is that definitions of "cult" that capture the Mormons also tend to snag quite
a few others such as Peter, Paul, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus Christ Himself. (Even many of the
specially contrived definitions tend to do that, frankly, as in, "A cult is any group claiming to have new
scripture and new revelations." Ever heard of the New Testament?)
Revealing the implications of basic definitions of "cult" is part of what makes that silly little website so
offensive. Yet there are other offensive aspects.
One of the mysteries of the internet is that email sent to the webmaster of MormonCult.org often ends
up in my inbox. I can testify that quite a few people are offended. Some offended souls are energetic
Mormons who are upset that someone would characterize their religion as a cult. Sometimes very
lengthy, heated responses are sent in to call the webmaster to repentance.
Frankly, that isn't working. The cold-hearted webmaster simply twists his vile lips in an evil smirk and
moves on, untouched, sometimes chortling over your vain attempt to reform him (yes, I think that's a
pretty fair description of what happens--you'll have to trust me on this).
Anti-Mormons are also among the offended. "That's the stupidest argument against the Mormons that
I've ever heard, because by that definition Baptists are a cult, too!" Umm, precisely.
Fortunately, not all opponents of the Latter-day Saints are angered. Some anti-Mormons have
expressed gratitude for providing such clear-cut evidence. Some people are quick to praise anything
that seems critical of the Mormons, being perhaps too easily pleased.
Some have expressed gentle puzzlement, though, wondering if the dictionary definition of cult might not
be casting too wide a web. And others are just happy to find a fellow anti-Mormon (so they think) they
can share their concerns with.
In this last category, one recent inquirer sent email to the webmaster of MormonCult.org, asking if the
website could provide information about that frightening cultist, Stephen Covey. The reader needed dirt
on the dread Mormon cultist to help oppose Covey's educational program that is sweeping the nation,
the "Leader in Me" program for leadership training in schools. The implications of this program were
frightening to this reader.
In spite of the success the program has had and its acclaim from secular forces and educational
administrators who would be quick to detect any religious content, that reader saw the dark hand of
Mormonism in the program and its teachings. This kind of cultist indoctrination in the schools surely
requires that every God-fearing Christian rise up and shout it down, right?
Personally, I tend to be suspicious of many modern educational innovations and prefer emphasis on
tried and true techniques that deliver core academic skills. My favorite example of that is Appleton
Wisconsin's Classical School, a charter school, a public school with an emphasis on academics,
which my wife founded when we lived in Wisconsin. It is doing remarkably well, has a waiting list of
kids wanting to get in (or parents wanting their kids to get in), and is leading the area in academic
But I look forward to learning more about what Covey is doing and how the schools that adopt his
program turn out. Whether it is bound for long-term success or not, do we really need to be suspicious
of possible Mormon influence in his program? Or in Appleton's Classical School? Well, perhaps we
Frankly, one can readily see Mormon principles in Covey's program. For example, from what I
understand, Covey's program is based on the idea that children have potential, that they have skills and
talents to be developed, that children need to have positive experiences, that growing and learning is
good, and that education matters. It even encourages kids to keep a "leadership notebook" that sounds
suspiciously like the journals that Mormons are urged to keep.
There's a rumor that it even teaches that parents and children should have healthy relationships and that
parents should care about education. Plus there is an emphasis on responsibility and preparing for the
future. All this is classic Mormon doctrine, and there it is, being smuggled into our schools and even
supported with tax dollars!
The Classical School has similar problems, with an emphasis on reading (yep - Mormons are always
teaching people to read, read, read) and on foreign language, with Spanish education part of every year
from kindergarten through eighth grade in this K-8 school. Spanish, as in the primary language of
Mormon missionaries? I know, you may be as shocked as I am.
Mormon teachings also include not spitting in class, paying attention to teachers, not cheating on tests,
respecting others, being kind to them, trying one's best, and getting all the education you can.
Students, parents, school officials, and local authorities, if anybody in your schools has been sharing
these kind of teachings, they may be promoting aspects of Mormonism, even if they aren't Mormon and
have no clue what Mormonism is. Is your child being indoctrinated with principles from a cult? Perhaps
directly influenced by a known cultist? Are we going from "Why Johnny Can't Read?" to "Why Johnny
Can't Be Saved?"
Of course, anybody who is a known Mormon cultist must be run out of the schools, out of politics, out
of sports and entertainment, and out of any other venue where he or she might allow the values of
Mormonism to influence his work and thus influence others because, after all, the appropriate response
to all things Mormon is fear. That's what classic anti-Mormonism is all about, and that's why it's so
important that the fear-inspiring buzzword "cult" be reserved exclusively for religions that leading
ministers don't like, especially the Mormons.
And that's also why a site like MormonCult.org is so offensive, because that logic stuff takes all the fun
out of calling another Christian religion a "cult."
So did the guy looking for dirt on Covey get any help? I have it on good authority that a tactful email
response was sent, as follows:
The fact that "The Leader in Me" is compatible with Mormon viewpoints, like be kind to
others, find and fulfill your mission in life, develop new skills, get education, etc., does not
mean it is pushing "Mormon beliefs." Now if the program tells people to read The Book of
Mormon, pay tithing to the Mormon Church, and believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus
Christ, then we've got Mormon beliefs being pushed. Are you seeing any of that?
If you see any of that, let me know. Until then, I don't think we have much to fear from having
Mormons contribute to education or any other field in our tolerant society.
So far, there has been no response from the concerned Christian who wants to go after Covey.
Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his
LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on
the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton,
Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra.
He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.
He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent
Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.
Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering
Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US
patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications.
Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.