Deep End | The Great Endorser: With aid of the Mormon Defense, Shurtleff skates again. 

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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has been getting some bad press lately—he’s been criticized for using official stationery, emblazoned with the great seal of Utah, to endorse a product called DigitalBridge, which is apparently some sort of dental apparatus. Mr. Shurtleff is alleged to have communicated his enthusiasm for the device to his fellow attorneys general across the land, claiming that “when I find a life-saving or dental-health enhancing product, I immediately get on the horn and call my friends all over this land of ours, and if I can’t reach them immediately, I grab some official state stationery and scribble a heart-felt endorsement.” n

Mr. Shurtleff’s endorsement of DigitalBridge is controversial for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a felony, according to statute, to use the Great Seal of Utah to hawk “any business, organization, product, service or article.” Second, according to local news reports, Utah’s chief law-enforcement officer penned a glowing endorsement of DigitalBridge within days of receiving a $10,000 campaign contribution from the aforementioned DigitalBridge. (Mr. Shurtleff told The Salt Lake Tribune that the timing of the endorsement and the $10,000 contribution was simply a “coincidence.”)

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Mr. Shurtleff’s legions of friends and contributors have risen to his defense, citing his long history of product endorsements. “I guess the general public doesn’t know that Mark is known all over America as “The Great Endorser,” said Horace Mendenhall, a very satisfied user of the DigitalBridge dental device, which is being kept under wraps until it gets approved by the Food & Drug Administration. (Scientists who have worked on the project say the groundbreaking dental device can be downloaded off the Internet and inserted directly into the mouth.)

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Whether or not Mr. Shurtleff misappropriated the Great Seal of Utah is now under investigation by the office of Lt. Governor Gary Herbert, but friends are confident that The Great Endorser will carry the day. They say the attorney general will use the famous “Mormon Defense” to clear his name. The defense, which is well established, is known as the “Mormon Defense” because it has been successfully employed for generations by Mormon officials accused of wrongdoing.

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The essence of the Mormon Defense (practiced, for example, with admirable skill by the many good Mormons caught in the Olympic Scandal) is as follows: I am a good person; therefore, if I am accused of doing anything bad, I must be innocent, because as a good person, I cannot possibly do anything wrong. A principal corollary of the Mormon Defense is the Assertion of Coincidence, namely, any appearance of cause and effect, no matter how blatant or obvious to an impartial observer, is simply a “coincidence.” Thus the “coincidence” of the $10,000 contribution and Mr. Shurtleff’s product endorsement.

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The beauty of the Mormon Defense lies in its purity and simplicity. Indeed, the Assertion of Coincidence is not strictly necessary, because even if cause and effect are admitted, they are irrelevant: If the cause is pure, how can the effect be bad? If my motives are good, how can my actions be wrong?

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In making use of the Mormon Defense, it is recommended that you assess the situation and then adopt either of two time-tested postures: feigned sweet-spirited humility or indignant self-righteousness. The first works well for small offenses, but for major transgressions, the second is usually the preferred course. Because The Great Endorser has been caught in flagrante endorso, he has wisely chosen to puff himself up in a magnificent pose of indignant self-righteousness.

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In all fairness, you do not have to be a Mormon to avail yourself of the Mormon Defense. Consider the case of the felon, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. He has made masterful use of the Mormon Defense, asserting his honesty, his integrity, his high-mindedness. It must be pointed out, however, that the good senator was aided and abetted in his defense by the senior senator from Utah, the honorable Orrin Hatch, who praised the Alaska felon’s virtue, honesty and decency. Of course, our Sen. Hatch brought an inimitable Mormon panache to his praise. You have to feel it in your bones, as Sen. Stevens so clearly did not.

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As the friends and contributors to Attorney General Shurtleff, we know in our bones that he is a decent and good man, and his enthusiastic product endorsements come from a pure space of sweetness and light in his soul. I also happen to know that The Great Endorser has not benefited in the least from the DigitalBridge, having no discernible dental bridgework at the present time.

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