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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mormon, Mo Problems

Pity the Mormons.  And not for the obvious reasons, either, like the fact that their Mecca and Medina is located in a strip mall in Utah.  No, pity the Mormons because they are confronting a crisis in their history.  An article in today's Times reports that Mormons are discovering the "interwebs." They're now learning things about their faith--things that just don't add up.  For one thing, despite protestations of latter-day Latter Day Saints, Mormon founder Joseph Smith apparently was, in fact, a polygamist.  And the church was for most of its history less than welcoming of black men! 

Damn interwebs!

Of course, some of the things that Mormons are discovering are, shall we say, on the silly side.  For example, devout Mormons are concerned by the apparent contradictions in church lore:
"Why does the church always portray Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon from golden plates, when witnesses described him looking down into a hat at a “peep stone,” a rock that he believed helped him find buried treasure?

"Why did Smith claim that the Book of Abraham, a core scripture, was a translation of ancient writings from the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, when Egyptologists now identify the papyrus that Smith used in the translation as a common funerary scroll that has nothing to do with Abraham?"
Look, folks, I know you're relatively new to this, but if you want to have a religion, you're going to have to resign yourself to some exaggerations, inconsistencies, and/or otherwise unpalatable truths.  I mean, we Jews have accepted the idea that Moses parted the Red Sea by whacking it with his stick--instead of just asking politely as God intended.  And if you Mormons wanted a religion with absolutely no history of violence or oppression, well then you should have just stuck with the mainstream Christian denominations.  I understand Catholicism has an utterly non-controversial history when it comes to things like tolerance for all humankind.

Of course, Mormonism's newness is largely to blame for these growing pains. 
“The Roman Catholic Church has had 2,000 years to work through the hiccups in its history,” said Terryl L. Givens, a professor of English, literature and religion at the University of Richmond and a Mormon believer. “Mormonism is still an adolescent religion.”
Mormonism is, in fact, less than 200 years old: I imagine there are still people out there who knew Joseph Smith personally!  At any rate, it's hard to build up a religious mythology, replete with supernatural events, when primary sources are still so readily available and made universally accessible through the Web.  In contrast, older religions can tell us anything, and we'll believe it.  A guy walked on water?  Why not!  Probably just trying to get away from the dragons.

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