Mormon Special

 

 

I see that NBC is planning to air an episode on Mormons and the LDS Church on its Rock Center show I am sure it will be a fair and balanced presentation on a sometimes controversial religious sect. Strangely, I must have missed all of the specials they did on the Trinity United Church of Christ back in 2008. I am sure that would have made quite an interesting show.

I do not agree with much of Mormonism’s doctrines and theology but I have a feeling that their preachers never say this in the pulpit.

 

 

 

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5 Responses to “Mormon Special”

  1. Ben Dattilo Says:

    Second only to the extremist economic policies of this election cycle, I find the interplay between conservative American Christianity and Mormonism to be entertainment worthy of a bag of popcorn and a lazeeboy. It is particularly fun to watch as an ex-Mormon atheist who has some inkling of what it is like to be Mormon (Christians have very strange beliefs!), but no longer has a horse in that race. Mormonism does not simply have strange doctrines, rather it is founded with the express model of revisiting all of the major doctrinal arguments of the early church and taking the other side–Mormonism is built on the Christian heresies–on purpose! For this reason, if you find only *some* of its doctrine objectionable, you probably have a lot to learn. Lifetime Mormons have internalized this stuff, but have also spent a lifetime not knowing the creeds, not visiting Christian churches (no more than Christians visit Mormon churches that is), therefore not really quite understanding HOW they are different. There is no way to not preach ANY of this at the pulpit, because heresy is woven into the entire cloth. Conservative Christians will never like this. On the other hand, there is “civil religion” of which there are two competing American forms: 1) America as Gods chosen land (the civil religion of conservatives–e.g. the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock) and 2) America as a land struggling to live up to Jesus’ admonition “love thy neighbor” (the civil religion of progressives–e.g. Martin Luther King). From the standpoint of their “civil religion” Mormons not only follow the American Zion civil religion, they have canonized it, and arguably are the best exemplars of it: e.g. Glen Beck.

    –they didn’t invent the American Zion, just the American Zion talk show.

    But they also brought us alternative Marriage, and they ARE an alternative religion, an American religion mind you, but an alternative to Christianity, not Christians themselves. For these points they would fit right in with the liberals’ love thy neighbor-no-matter-what stuff, but they have been staunchly against gay marriage.

    Snap! That ain’t hypocrisy.

    When Huckabee pointed all that heresy out, I was waiting for Mormons to reconsider their party allegiances, and for a moment they did–Utah, where Democrats always come in third after after Parrots and other animals, Obama made a very good showing. This cycle I waited because I figure . . .one more time, and Mormons will really have to face the fact that they are Charlie Brown, and that American Christian conservatives are Lucy Van
    Pelt, holding a football–over and over and over. Has that changed? I think not.

    • David Hoffman Says:

      One of these days I am going to have to get around to writing a post on why I think Mormons are not Christians. Put simply, I think that the differences between Mormonism and mainstream, orthodox Christianity are great enough that it would be more accurate to describe Mormonism as a separate religion that developed out of Christianity (much as Christianity developed from Judaism) rather than a subset of Christianity. I don’t know that Mormon theology is based on any particular early Christian heresy. It seems to me to be more based on the mystery cults with its secret Temple Ceremonies, and a little bit of Gnostic practice, with the secret signs and names, though Gnostic theology is quite different than Mormon. Then, there is the strange quasi-polytheism and Kolob, etc

      I don’t think you are likely to see a large movement of Mormons to the Democratic Party. Part of Mormon identity nowadays is their patriotism and adherence to “traditional American values”, which is slightly ironic considering the history of the LDS Church. As long as the Democrats allow themselves to be identified as the secular, anti-American party, they are going to have trouble attracting Mormons and others. Obama really hasn’t helped the Democrats in this regard since he has made statements in the past which suggest that he is out of sync with the American civic religion and with Americans’ opinions of themselves. This might be why birther conspiracy theories have been so resilient.

      I think that in the long run Mormons and more mainstream Christians will learn to work together since they have more in common, in terms of politics and ethics than either has with the more liberal, secular crowd. I could be wrong though.

  2. Ben Dattilo Says:

    It will be difficult to convince actual Mormons that they are not Christian, but everyone else knows. Facing realities is actually one of their biggest hurdles.

    Secret ceremonies are just at the surface, a rather late add-on in terms of Joseph Smith’s lifetime of add-ons. Also, as you allude to in the original post, Kolob is one of many doctrines that is actively being stuffed down the memory hole (if you can use a term like “active” to refer to a complete ban from the top). Not just one Heresy, but a few characterize the core doctrine. Gnosticism is not that far off actually, but you can dispute that with the scholars who have called it.

    I agree that they will probably never become Democrats as a group, not just for the reasons that you state, but because liberals almost always reject the concept that the United States is God-chosen–a central tenant of the Glen-Beck espoused Conservative Civil Religion. That does not mean Democrats don’t adhere to a long respected American Civil Religion themselves however–and the fight between the two civil religions is what we are watching play out right now–and that is the reason that politics is so intense–this is something of a jihad on both sides.

    When you imply that modern Mormon patriotism is an anomaly of recent times, you miss an essential aspect of pre-Utah Mormon history. Pick up a Book of Mormon and read about America and you will see some very familiar ideas about this country, its discovery, the founding fathers, and the constitution. The Book of Mormon was written before the church was organized.

    The problem Mormons face then is an ongoing brain drain–a flood that just increases as their Orwellian attempts to change history but against the universally availability of information on the internet lead to the flight of intellectuals. Most conservative churches have never had intellectuals in their midst, now the monolithic Mormon church is dealing with the significant loss of intellectuals for the first time. Which is to say, there are lots of Mormons who really are not that conservative, but the problem is self repairing.

    • David Hoffman Says:

      You’re right. I had forgotten the New World as promised land theme in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps I blocked out the memory of reading it.

      I don’t agree with you about Liberals rejecting the concept that the United States as God chosen. That is to say, that that idea is not exclusively a Conservative one, or at least shouldn’t be. It wasn’t that long ago that Liberals were the ones who believed that the US could be a powerful force for good in the world, whether by example or more direct means.Think of FDR, JFK, or LBJ. Or think of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Both of these men considered themselves to be progressives and both were very nationalistic, even jingoist. The Progressives were some of the most enthusiastic proponents of turn of the century US imperialism. Liberals have tended to abandon this idea, maybe since the Vietnam War. I think that conceding the “patriotism” card is an unfortunate development, both in terms of electoral success and for the country as a whole.

      I am not sure quite what you mean by the Progressive’s civil religion. If it is a matter of loving or caring for your neighbor, than I do not believe that this is confined to any one political faction any more than the other. Conservatives and Liberals do not differ on whether one should care for others, but the means by which this should be accomplished. Conservatives favor the free market and voluntary associations. Liberals favor government programs. There is, of course, a lot of overlap, and both sides can give good arguments, but I think you know my prejudices in the matter.

      I think that a lot of the intensity of politics right now is because the old New Deal-World War 2-Great Society consensus has just about completely broken down and it is not clear which direction the country should go in. In times where everybody more or less agrees on the direction of the country, politics is somewhat tamer. Think of the era from about 1940-1968. Both parties more or less supported the New Deal, Civil Rights legislation (except for Southern Democrats), and even Johnson’s Great Society. Remember that Medicare, etc were bipartisan efforts. A supposed conservative like Nixon was more “liberal” than many Democrats nowadays. This consensus started to break down in the 1970’s, and has become less relevant since. So, a lot of the fighting is between people who want to preserve that old consensus as much as possible, and those who want to move in various new directions. I expect that politics will calm down in a decade or two and ideas that you or I might consider extreme or radical will be regarded as conventional wisdom.

      Another part of the intensity, though, is the feeling that our political elites are simply not doing a good job running the country. This is where a lot of the impulse behind the formation of movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. They attack the problem from different angles and differ on solutions, etc but notice that both share a distrust of institutions that have grown big and remote from their own concerns. This also explains some of the loss of membership from the LDS and other institutions. If I were to guess, and I don’t have any statistics in front of me right now, I would expect that non-denominational, non aligned churches have the largest increase in membership, along with the spiritual but not religious crowd.

    • David Hoffman Says:

      By the way, did you ever manage to read the Book of Mormon all the way through? I did but it wasn’t easy.

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