Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mormon Mondays (on Tuesday): Introduction

There are many things that are shrouded in mystery: the vastness of the universe, the number of species floating in the deep sea, how much of a sausage is actually hoof and snout, and the Mormon church. There's a lot about the Latter Day Saints that people just don't know, something that is both a curse and a blessing to the church. It's a curse because this lack of knowledge leads people under the erroneous assumption that Mormons are something strange and scary, a pinkly-scrubbed army of Stepford husbands and wives with bizarre lifestyle choices. It also a blessing because, well, there are a number of things about the church that are just plain odd to those on the outside. Your typical Christian-based faith does not have the instantly-recognizable image of the Mormon missionary, all wearing their standard uniform black slacks and impossibly crisp white shirts. Also, the idea of a sequel to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, understandably strikes a majority of Christians as insulting, in the same way that designating the Jewish Bible as an "Old" Testament is probably insulting to a majority of Jews. Then there are the contents of the Book of Mormon itself, which makes such claims as Native Americans actually being Jews and Jesus spending a brief stint in the New World to preach the good news to said Indians/Jews. Not to mention such divine pronouncements as plural wives, blood atonement, and baptism of the dead, two of which have been done away with and continue to be an embarrassment to the church. As such, the church is extremely sensitive about its image to the world, and continues to work hard to show the world that they are nothing to be afraid of, that they are nothing more than your pure, dutiful, hard-working neighbor ready to lend a hand when in need.

That is not my interest with this series.

I have a deep, sometimes frustrating love of the Latter-day Saints. It is one of the most fascinating religions in the world because unlike the other major world religions, there is a crystal-clear written record documenting the creation of the church and the life of it's founder, Joseph Smith. That alone makes it fascinating. There is also the matter of the Book of Mormon, which can either be seen as the divinely inspired word of God in the New World, or the lengthy first novel of an exceedingly religious and cash-strapped con man. The Mormons tend to get ignored in history classes, with maybe the odd mention of Brigham Young. What I hope is that I can bring you some of the juicier, more interesting aspects of Mormon history, along with analyses of their sacred texts, reviews of Mormon books/movies/documentaries, and other assorted goodness. I am not personally a Mormon, but I am definitely an unabashed fan, and everything I plan to write in this series is the product of both love and respect for this church and their members. Now sit back, take a swig of your favorite decaffeinated beverage, and let's begin.

Note: This series is confusingly called Mormon Mondays, Since this is Scott's blog and he owns Monday, this gets posted on Tuesdays. However, I still love the name "Mormon Mondays," so I kept it.

5 comments:

  1. I'm interested in reading this! I, too, have a strange fascination with the Mormon belief system, though I don't consider it a form of Christianity. I'll be interested in seeing what you bring up and talk about, however! Have you read much on the subject?

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  2. I've read a decent amount, though I'm by no means an expert. Most of what I've read has been focused on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I've even read the BOM, and plan on doing a chapter-by-chapter review of it at some point. If you're interested in Joseph Smith, the best biography about him is supposed to be Fawn Brodie's "No Man Knows My History." I've been meaning to read that one but haven't gotten around to it yet. If you're interested in the BOM, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" is fantastic. Although it takes a fairly blatant "anti-religion" stance, Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven" is pretty incredible. It has a brief history of the Mormon church, the FLDS, and ties all of this into a sickening account of an extreme fundamentalist who believes that a divine revelation from God commanded him to murder his brother's wife and baby. There was also a PBS series called The Mormons which is interesting and surprisingly unbiased.

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  3. Looking forward to your critique. If Questions throw it my way. Krakauer's Book was interesting but was narrow in presentation. The best Joseph Smith book is "Rough Stone Rolling", a historians well researched book that doesn't avoid the tough questions on Josephs life.

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  4. I have actually read No Man Knows My History, and I have The God Makers and an Emma Hale Smith biography waiting for me as well. :) Thanks for the other suggestions!

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  5. I'm gonna second the "not considering Mormonism Christianity." Like, oranges are not apples, and like Islam is not Christianity. Not a slander, just a designation.

    The one I wanna know more about are those Scientologists. I just....don't get 'em. The way I don't get why they use those stupid Old Navy dummies, you know?

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