Friday, October 16, 2009

Only in America: The Mormons, Part II

Before I get to all the things I like about the Mormons (and there are many), I didn't want to leave out any of the highlights of their totally unhinged beliefs. It might be too late already, but yesterday's warning applies: Easily offended Mormons should stop right here, although today's post will focus a bit (and only a bit) more on what's valuable about the Latter Day Saints.

Where to begin? Well, there are the temple garments (sometimes derisively referred to as "magic underwear"), which some church members claim can ward off physical dangers such as knives, bullets, and auto accidents.

Then there's the idea that if you're a really good Mormon, God will reward making you a God yourself! Perhaps this is why the Mormons convert people at such a rapid rate, even with their ludicrous story. Who wouldn't want to rule his or her own universe?

Side note: I don't fully trust the sanity of people who are converted to Mormonism as adults. This guy is the best example.

I haven't even gotten into the single aspect that the Mormon church is best known for: polygamy. It's too easy a target, quite frankly. I actually don't have too much of a problem with "plural marriage," as the LDS puts it. I'm a bit of a libertarian, and what goes on between brainwashed consenting adults and their extremely virile men is their business. The fact that several of Joseph Smith's 30 wives (conservative estimate) and Brigham Young's 55 brides were minors, with some being as young as 14, troubles me more. If my prophets were verified pedophiles, I might think twice about giving away 10% of my income to said church so they can build fancy temples that exclude visitors. Just sayin'.

Right now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, jerk. When does all that good stuff about Mormons start?" Well, how about right now? For those who are enjoying it so far, don't worry; I've saved one of the most insane, offensive Mormon practices for later.

Here's the thing: Mormons are some of my favorite people. Heck, they're everyone's favorite people. That's the great thing about the South Park ep I posted yesterday. It's really hard to dislike a Mormon, much less be angry with one. Mormons are kind, caring, polite, responsible, and intelligent. They are almost always exceptional students. Just a couple weeks ago, I witnessed one of my Mormon students do something incredibly touching for another student who had recently experienced a tragedy (intentionally vague to protect confidentiality here).

Clearly, the LDS are producing people of outstanding character. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer asks, "How do we get Mormons without Mormonism?" Is it possible to create the benevolent character traits seemingly inherent in Mormons without instilling them with all that crazy crap?

I would ask a follow-up question: If we could do that, would we want to? What kind of society would we breed?

The only way that Mormons all turn out sharing those similar qualities is the steady and persistent indoctrination they face from the moment they are born. Make no mistake; it is the very definition of indoctrination. There's a reason their kids go to school before school. Largely, this prevents them from becoming the little a-holes that many of their public school peers turn into. They are bred to be subservient to authority. After all, with a story that nuts, the fewer questions they ask, the better. I'm consistently amazed that although they're the some of the smartest kids I have, very few seem to question the totally illogical/impossible story they've been fed. That's some serious mind control.

What would the world be like if it were made entirely of devout Mormons? It would basically be the plot to the movie Pleasantville.

Women's roles would be narrow and well-defined. Mormon women are expected to get married at an early age and breed. Career is not a priority. I doubt any Mormon women would disagree with me here.

There would be art, but it would be Pat Boone, Walt Disney, Stephanie Meyer, and paint-by-numbers. Mormons are not skilled at outside-the-box thinking. Their entire life is about structure. Mormons would've never invented jazz, rock n' roll, The Godfather, Caddyshack, "The Cask of Amontillado," The Great Gatsby, Guernica, or David.

The Mormon ban on viewing R-rated films deserves its own paragraph. Nothing speaks to the irrationality of the faith more than outlawing some of the greatest art of the past century because five strangers (the MPAA) somewhat arbitrarily decided that people under the age of 17 shouldn't watch it. Yet that's exactly the policy. The words "close-minded" don't come close to describing it.

Civil rights issues would be just fine, as long as you're a white, heterosexual male who wants lots and lots of wives. The LDS has a long history of stubbornly dragging its feet until they are forced into the fire. They only gave up polygamy when President James Buchanan sent the Union army to Utah to halt the practice. The beauty of the Mormon religion is that God is constantly passing on revelations to the church elders, so they were able to save face and say that God no longer wanted them to engage in plural marriages. Convenient.

Race has also been a thorny issue for the Mormons. First, there's that whole "the Indians are dark because God cursed them" thing. Then there was Brigham Young's virulent racism that restricted blacks from becoming members of the priesthood and restricted them from other temple ordinances. He made these decrees in 1850. To the LDS' credit, they saw the error of their ways quickly and rescinded them. In 1978. Hey, at least it didn't take the Union army to change their minds this time. Just a decade or so of mulling over the civil rights movement and what it meant for them.

Then there's the church's latest triumph, the massive funding and organizing effort that helped push the anti-gay Prop 8 over the top. This time, when the public used their own free speech to push back against the church's stance to deny people equal rights, they claimed to be the oppressed minority. They'll probably be issuing a revelation changing their position on this one in 2060 or so, 20 years after the rest of America.

Perhaps the worst aspect of an all-Mormon world would be the utter arrogance the church exudes. One of the church's lesser-known practices is baptism for the dead. Not satisfied with converting the living through their mandatory missionary service, Mormons have a ritual within their temples where a congregation member (often a youth) will stand in for one or more dead people as the deceased's names are read. These souls are thought to be posthumously given the opportunity to be "saved" by the LDS. The church has some of the best genealogy research in the world in order to make sure they don't miss anybody.

Your dead ancestors, yes, yours, have probably already been baptized by the Mormons. How do I know this? Because they've already gotten to Adolf Hilter, as well as millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust. Stunningly, the families of those who perished because of their Jewish faith objected to this procedure. To its credit, the LDS agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust victims. As far as I know, everyone else is still fair game.

All those rosy smiles and good behavior come with a cost. Just ask the Arkansas emigrants who died at the hands of Mormons dressed up as Indians in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

I still adore my Mormon students and friends. But I wouldn't want a world full of them.


Lance Christian Johnson said...

I've always meant to get to something like this, but I still feel that I haven't mined the Old and New Testament enough for their absurdities to get around to their sequel(s).

Oh, and I had a great-aunt who had converted to Mormonism when she got married. She then deconverted and became a Lutheran after her husband died. After she died though, the LDS went and made her Mormon again.

One day, both of us will be Mormons.

Jessica said...

One day, all of us will be Mormon.
The baptism of the dead thing is rather odd and creepy. I've never actually seen one, but I imagine it's rife with oogyness.

My husband was brought up LDS (sort of, whole other topic) and even he and his siblings were unaware of the whole "we'll make you a god of your own planet" portion of the program...

As far as the polygamy goes....yeah, the 40 wives is beyond a bit much, but a lot of the times in the pioneer families if a husband would die the brother or uncle or such would "marry" the widow to afford her protection and financial stability.

At least that's what I heard, from my husband's relatives, who are descendants of the polygamist frontier Mormons.

Rica said...

Actually, Mr. Nolan, I've got to disagree with you.

Women are not constrained to getting married young and breeding. In fact, the Church encourages us to get our educations. Not just in something like "Home & Family Living" (yes, that's a major here), but doing something worthwhile in our careers.

Do I feel some pressure to get married? Yes. But I have never been told by anyone that I'm insane, going against the doctrine of the Church, or anything else for wanting a career.

By the way, if you don't know...and I hate admitting this, Stephanie Meyer is LDS.

Jon Roisman said...

I always liked the proposed Mormon State of Deseret.

The size alone would've made it completely unmanageable.

megan said...

At a very young age, my parents told me that I needed to gain my own faith and stop riding on theirs. I certainly can't speak for others, but I've always asked questions about my religion. I can't think of a time, in any of my Sunday School or Seminary classes, where my questions were avoided, ignored, or without answer.

Some would say that being a Mormon, or even just religious, is a lot of work... and that's true. It's really hard to stand up for your beliefs, in the face of your peers and co-workers, knowing that they don't understand you. It's quite scary at times. Who would subject herself to the ridicule of friends if she weren't, with her whole soul, grasping onto some sliver of truth and value? What kind of church leaders would work for free and dedicate hours of time, and who would spend precious hours sitting and listening to them... all for a load of crap? I, personally, wouldn't put forward much effort for a doctrine that I hadn't researched and questioned... and most of the Mormons I know are the same. C'mon. Give us some credit.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, encouraged to find your own faith. Fundamentally you have to ask yourself where was the greater pressure? From acquaintances who occasionally might find you peculiar, or from your entire family and community whose vested interest is in you finding the "right" answer. Mormon communities are definitely not neutral when the answer you discover for yourself is the "wrong" one.

Kath said...

No they are NOT neutral when you get a "different" answer about the truthfulness of the church. Most who leave the church are ostracized from the entire community. I can't even begin to tell you the pain people go through when discover it’s not true. so many lose their wives, children, parents and siblings over it. Then there is the "job" if you happen to be working for another Mormon...That delightsome behavior that Mormons usually exude disappears real quick when you no longer believe in their fairytale. They are actually interviewed and asked if they associate with "apostates". Many Mormons take the fear of that question literally (because if they do they can't get into the temple), so they cut their unbelieving family members out of their lives. Don’t you wonder what kind of God runs that kind of fear and belief?