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piny

Yeah, this is just about how I feel. I have no love for Mitt "Fetus-lover-come-lately" Romney. However, I think that his Mormonism is being played up in order to mask the fact that the Christian right is all about political affiliation and not really about religious affiliation.

Mike Schilling

The parallels between Mormonism and Christian Science are interesting. Both were founded in 19th century America by charismatic leaders, both present themselves as rediscoveries of the true Church, and both are based on Newer Testaments. (And Mark Twain made fun of both of them.)

And in today's atmosphere, it would also be difficult for a Christian Scientist to run for president. Imagine having to answer for the hundredth time whether yod'd abolish Medicare.

piny

And in today's atmosphere, it would also be difficult for a Christian Scientist to run for president. Imagine having to answer for the hundredth time whether yod'd abolish Medicare.

*Snort* Because it's not like normal Christian elected officials ever try to demolish healthcare safety nets, nooooo sirrrr.

joanr16

Lance, if I might recommend the book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, with the caveat that he's not a Mormon, and that he deals quite a bit with the breakaway polygamist/pedophile sect based in Colorado City/Hildale on the Colorado-Arizona border-- two points that offended some Mormon spokesmen. (And note that I did not say, "Spokespersons.")

I thought it was a fair and open-minded book, in that it clearly distinguished between the mainstream LDS Church and the sect in question. It also finds much to admire about the beliefs of the mainstream Church. But of course, when it comes to questions of pedophilia, religious organizations do tend to get defensive.

Ken Houghton

On instinct, more from occasional dealings and Teresa's autobiographical essay about her excommunication than first-hand knowledge, Mormonism is an American religion, while the other majors trace themselves back to European/Middle-Eastern roots.

I think of it in the same sectarian terms as the Utopian communities (many also originated in Upstate New York around the same time; something in the air?) and would tend not to put it necessarily in the same category and Catholicism (maybe Lutheran, though).

You could also make an argument for Joseph Smith as paralleling Mohammed (follow-on leader, acknowledging the glory of Christ, but redirecting the flock), and Mormonism being therefore "generationally-equivalent" to Islam (in the same way as one might describe programming languages as 3GL or 4GL).

At its center, The Church of Latter-Day Saints is clearly a Christian-offshoot sect. But it doesn't have the history or immigrant base of the older sects, and therefore isn't so visible in everyday life as, say, the annual tragic photocopier accident.

In short, it can be presented as The Other. And therefore it is suspect.

Dave MB

There's a general trend in Christian-derived religions, especially in the US, to identify with the "primitive Christianity" of Jesus and the apostles. The Catholics, of course, believe that they are the legitimate continuation of primitive Christianity, but everyone else argues that Rome took a wrong turn someplace. Most of the new sects from the 19th-century US argued that they were returning to Jesus' true church -- the Mormons just add the odd angle that Jesus continued his ministry after his crucifixion among the alleged displaced Jews in the pre-Columbian New World, and that part of his message was transmitted to Joseph Smith through the buried plates.

I find it interesting sociologically that many modern liberal and/or feminist Christians believe that Jesus and his immediate followers were liberals and/or feminists, before the Council of Nicaea messed everything up. (The Da Vinci Code draws on this line of thinking.) They argue that there is textual support for their view in the Gnostic Gospels.

You can easily go too far in identifying a single "Mormon theology", because individual Mormons are encouraged to think some issues through for themselves, within limits. This was the problem, IMHO, in the recent piece by Damon Linker in The New Republic that argued that a Mormon president was dangerous because Mormonism has no tradition of rational theology to protect believers intellectually from possible overreaching by the hierarchy.

travy

religious discussions are intellectually suspect from the start which is why they inevitably go nowhere...

Dave MB

There's a general trend in Christian-derived religions, especially in the US, to identify with the "primitive Christianity" of Jesus and the apostles. The Catholics, of course, believe that they are the legitimate continuation of primitive Christianity, but everyone else argues that Rome took a wrong turn someplace. Most of the new sects from the 19th-century US argued that they were returning to Jesus' true church -- the Mormons just add the odd angle that Jesus continued his ministry after his crucifixion among the alleged displaced Jews in the pre-Columbian New World, and that part of his message was transmitted to Joseph Smith through the buried plates.

I find it interesting sociologically that many modern liberal and/or feminist Christians believe that Jesus and his immediate followers were liberals and/or feminists, before the Council of Nicaea messed everything up. (The Da Vinci Code draws on this line of thinking.) They argue that there is textual support for their view in the Gnostic Gospels.

You can easily go too far in identifying a single "Mormon theology", because individual Mormons are encouraged to think some issues through for themselves, within limits. This was the problem, IMHO, in the recent piece by Damon Linker in The New Republic that argued that a Mormon president was dangerous because Mormonism has no tradition of rational theology to protect believers intellectually from possible overreaching by the hierarchy.

Dave MB

Thanks, Ken Houghton, for the link to Teresa's essay. I hadn't seen this before but I'd read Sonia Johnson's book about her excommunication, which (as Teresa mentions) happened at about the same time. I really recommend reading Teresa if you want to learn more about Mormonism, and how she came to reject it intellectually because it was incompatible with what she knew about archeology. It also further confirms my impression that the "hierarchy" are a bunch of well-meaning, not too bright used-car salesmen.

(BTW, sorry for the double post above, typepad went south on me and I didn't know the first try had worked.)

Joem


I was raised as a Catholic and I also grew up with a certain biased against other Christian denominations. Now that I've grown up, I have become more tolerant with people who do not share my religion. Anyway, I think that this post is great because it gives a very informative view about one aspect of the 2008 presidential race. It has become clearer to me that religion has a great influence in people's choice during the upcoming election.

Phoenician in a time of Romans

It just seems to me that the popular image of Mormons must be of earnest, brightly smiling wholesomeness.

I always saw Mormons as teh Ned Flanders of teh world, myself.

muddy

I was startled when a friend of mine who had been brought up as a Mormon (but who was not a believer) told me that Mormons believed God lived on this planet. Not *this* planet, rather, but *a* planet, called Kolob. My friend said the name was the same as Donny & Marie's record label. He said God was supposed to be actually alive and sitting on that planet. I said, "Like you could go on a spaceship and land there and see him?" And he said "Yes." It was so odd.

I never looked it up, but that's what I was told. Might be good news for NASA funding if true... ;-)

Chuck Champion

Well, I was convinced Dubya couldn't get the nomination nor the election in 2000 -- he was sooooo dumb, couldn't happen. So I'm probably wrong about Guiliani, too. Just cuz I can't see it doesn't mean the Religious Right can't see it. And, Tom, I think you're correct: it is exactly that authoritarian streak of Guiliani's that may make him a "made man" in their eyes.

Bill Altreuter

We'll see a woman and an African-American in the White House before we'll see an avowed atheist. There have been atheists that have held the office, I suspect- and certainly agnostics-- but the church-going public of this country also makes a habit of going to the polls. Unfortunately this has the effect of injecting irrationality into our political process, and since we have a Constitutional right to believe any damn fool thing we want, I don't see this changing.

It is troubling, if you stop to think about it. Nancy Reagan had Ronnie's horoscope cast, and people thought that was funny, but the pure irrationality of that particular superstition was shrugged at. Other superstitions, however, are apparently a requirement, and I defy anyone to tell me the difference between someone who defines their beliefs by declaring, "I'm a Methodist" from someone who says "I'm A Libra".

From what I've read, Mormons subscribe to a religion that is just about as science fiction-y as Scientology. I'd say that the difference is just about the difference between Jules Verne and Frank Herbert-- without the literary merit. (I am speaking of Verne here-- Dune, the Book of Mormon and Dianetics have in common that they are comically badly written.) When you stop to think about it, more traditional followers of Mr. Christ are likewise buying into a literary tradition-- and a brand of superstition that would seem delusional if we actually did pause to think about it. I mean, believing that a supernatural being speaks to you, or is interested in whether you sink a foul shot is pretty crazy. When people say that voices tell them to do things we give them medicine-- unless they say the voice is the deity, in which case we elect them to office.

When I am feeling tolerant, I will allow that the various stripes of Christian faith have at least the merit of encouraging charitable works, and that is something that the Latter-Day Saints can claim as well. Why such people need to make up a fairy tale to encourage decent behavior is something I can't account for, and when I look back in history-- or on the front page of the newspaper-- and see the atrocities that are committed in the name of these various fictions I am at an even greater loss.

So excuse me, but I'm for whoever shuts up the most about their religious belief. As I recall Mr. Christ recommended that people keep in mind that those who proclaimed their faith the loudest were the biggest hypocrites of all. Just because he is approximately as real as Sherlock Holmes doesn't mean he never said anything worthwhile, you know.

velvet goldmine

Here is something from my skimpy store of experience: I had a Mormon baby-sitter when I was in grammar school. I went to her house before and after school, and was essentially one of the family for about a year. They -- a youngish husband and wife, and their toddler daughter -- were one of the nicest families I ever met.

The main thing I remember about their whacko, extremist beliefs is that they set aside a special family night once a week for board games and the like and that the husband and wife had each done missionary work as newlyweds because that was required of their faith. Once their car broke down on a bridge on a frigid winter day and the husband took a few minutes to pray before we gave up and walked to a service station, but that was about as exasperating (by a fifth-graders' standards) as it ever got.

Well...their spare room closet was filled with cases of soy beans, which I was told was a seven years' supply in case of some kind of worldwide catastrophe.

Beyond that, I watched All My Children with her in the summer, and once school started, she filled me in on Erica's shenanigans while she made me breakfast.

One of my Christian relatives told me Mormons were evil and that I should never let them into my house, let alone be semi-raised by one.

HairlesMonkeyDK

The book of the Angel Moroni breeds morons,
the book of Yahwe-Yeah, Well, I'll Kill You All,
the book of Jesus, I'll Save Ya If Ya Donate,
Or Else it's a gnashing of teeth!

How are these any different than MY ancestral Gods like Odin and Loke.
Seriously, what seperates Thor from
Jesus?
Only one thing:
The amount of bassackwards people willing to worship the myth.
Talking fiery shrubbery,
regurtitating whales, impossible arks...
Juxtaposition them with MidgårdsOrmen, the world circling snake, and you'll see why I,
a danish Atheist, laugh at both your country's delusions
and those of my ancient own.

Dave MB

HairlesMonkeyDK, you've got the first line of a great metered poem there. (Yes, I'm in the middle of The Ode Not Taken by Stephen Fry). In fact there's such great imagery there that I want to finish recasting it:

The book of the Angel Moroni breeds morons
The book of Yahweh's all about who he killed.
And Jesus will save only those who will donate --
If you don't believe you'll be roasted or chilled.

Is this any different from Odin or Loki
The ancestral gods of the land of my birth?
To have a relationship daily with Jesus?
It's like you're believing Thor's walking the earth.

What makes the one strange and the other one normal?
The number of people to worship the myth.
The fiery shrubbery, whales eating prophets,
Arks that won't hold what they should be filled with.

An atheist Dane, I can't help comparing
These Biblical things with the world-circling snake,
I'm laughing at both your young country's delusions
And those that my ancient one happened to make.

pejsek

Well, I can't pretend to even begin to unravel the enigma of Mormonism. But I will throw in my own two cents. I was raised as a Mormon here in California. I can't ever remember believing in the literal truth of the church's teachings (the fact that my father was a professor of biology and was not at all ready to jettison the insights gained from carbon dating, the theory of evolution, etc. probably had something to do with this), but at the same time my whole family life was steeped in the culture and trappings of Mormonism. One of my great great grandfathers was among the first handful of church members in Palmyra, NY; his claim to fame was the boast that he had transported the golden plates in his cart. One of my great grandfathers was one of Brigham Young's authoritarian henchmen while another was a middle class Londoner who joined the church with his wife and then fled from the despair he found in Utah, leaving my great grandmother to be exiled to Southern Utah and married off in polygamy to some horrible mean old patriarch. My paternal great grandmother was a suffragette and the first woman elected to the Utah legislature. My maternal grandfather grew up in a mud lean-to in the mountains of Southern Utah and somehow made his way to Washington University in St Louis and became a dentist; he was a furtive smoker and not immune to the pleasures of an occasional drink. My parents grew up in Salt Lake City in the 1940s and 50s. I recount this history simply to show the (typical) diversity of family experience. All of these people experienced the Mormon church in different ways and from different angles (some victims, others victimizers), yet Mormonism was the central element in all of their lives. It was not until my parents moved to California in the 1960s that this generations-long chain of Mormon isolation was broken. To my parents Mormonism was just part of the ether, but to me it was a central element marking me as an outsider. I remember well the venom with which some kids attacked me. Their protestant fundamentalist parents had told them that we were basically evil devil worshipers and not at all part of their clan. It was hard for me to make sense of this, since I was being ridiculed for theological positions I had no real identification with or reasons for defending. At the same time, it certainly didn't make me want to join up with THEM. This is one of the reasons I can only shake my head sadly at Romney. He will try to please the evangelicals but they will never accept him (basically because they think he is not only wrong but dangerously so). It saddens me as well because Romney seems to be turning his back on an honorable pattern of tolerance and moderate behavior. I'm really not much of an expert in Mormon theology, but as I think back on my own childhood one of the things that leaps out at me is that I don't really recall the notion of sin playing a very central role. Mormons believe in eternal progression, which is basically the idea that you will progress both here on earth and then again in the afterlife. As long as you don't make really heinous mistakes, after death you will find yourself somewhere along the road to godhood yourself. I find this idea much more comforting (and perhaps much more conducive to civil political life) than the all-or-nothing gambit of traditional christianity.
Anyway, Lance, thanks for the interesting post. I think you're exactly right about the dynamic at play here. The easy part for republicans is to demonstrate shameless hypocrisy; the tough part is really living the hate. It wasn't until I read John Dean's book that I began to understand how central a role hate plays among the wingers. Romney doesn't seem to have any real history of this. It's disturbing that he might want to try and it's pathetic that he will almost certainly fail.

HairlessMonkeyDK (This Time I'll Spell My Name Right!) Michael S. Olsen.

Dave MB.
I adore you.
I don't love ya... yet.
But I do adore you.
That was perfect.
Thankee.
But I really have to apologize
for my earlier post.
Not because of the content, which is what I'd say anyway,
but because of the slightly weird word-choice.
My denfense?
I was drunk; and very much so.
Having had a bit of rest,
I'm gonna go hunting for better grammar and better beer.

P.S.
Anyone quoting Fry gets bonus-points.

- Michael Søndberg Olsen.

P.P.S:
Hey, Mannion, it's official:
You've gone global. You now have a Scandinavian commenter.

Dave MB

Michael,

Good luck with the beer. Some of my most pleasant experiences ever with alcohol have been in Denmark, with my computer science colleagues at Aarhus. They include choral singing (e.g., the Monty Python Philosophers Song) outside a bar on the Aagaden after midnight.

Maybe you should write drunk more often -- the content, structure, and imagery of the poem were all in your post, so I only added the meter.

David Mix Barrington

inge

It just seems to me that the popular image of Mormons must be of earnest, brightly smiling wholesomeness.

In a scary, pod-people kind of way.

Micky

Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the "natural" order of things a METANOIA - the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is "I" it can do nothing to save itself; it's sacrifices are of no avail, and it's Law gives no life.
After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis - I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!

Peace Be With You
Micky

Phil

I am a practicing Mormon. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about Mormonism. A business partner of mine was roomates with Romney while in college, and was responsible for bringing him to the 2002 winter olympics.
By the way, the name of the mormon church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints. Note the words Jesus Christ. We are deffinately christian.

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