"Mr. Robinson, Mr. Robinson!"
"What a horrible mess!"
"I broke your window with my ball."
"And I've come to confess!"
"You knew I'd be angry! ("Yes!") Aren't you afraid? ("Yes!) You'll have to pay for this mess you have made...but I'm proud of you, child, for you have displayed honor, the stuff from which heroes are made!"
"I told the truuuuuuuuuuuth!"
"He told the truuuuuuuuuuuth!"
If you grew up during the 80's and watched television, you recognize the preceding exchange. I haven't seen that commercial in probably 20 years, yet I didn't have to watch it again before composing those lines from memory. I could've recited the whole thing. I love that ad. Not only is it well-produced and catchy (and stars a young Alphonso Rebeiro), it's got an undeniably moral message: Own up to your mistakes. The world would be a better place if more people took the song's message to heart.
I must've seen that mini-musical hundreds of times in my youth, along with scads of others like it. The one where the dad bursts into his daughter's room and angrily yells, "Are you guys having a pillow fight in here?" at a bunch of terrified teenage girls, then says, "Cuz I sure wouldn't want to miss a good pillow fight!" as he joins in is my second favorite. This one is awesome (and culturally diverse) as well. At the end of these, it would always say, "Brought to you by the Mormons! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)." At the time, I couldn't care less who was paying for those commercials; all I knew was they were kick-ass in an incredibly cheesy way.
Although I knew Mormons growing up (my basketball coach and his son come to mind), I didn't really understand how the LDS was different from my own church until high school. There I realized that Mormon kids were waking up an hour-and-a-half earlier than I was to go to some sort of special Mormon training every day. This was completely unfathomable to me. I couldn't stand one hour of church a week. They were getting up early to do it on a daily basis? From then on, I realized that the LDS wasn't like any other Christian denomination.
Before I go on, let me be clear that I am going to generalize at certain points in the rest of this blog. These are my impressions from my lifetime of relationships with Mormon acquaintances, students, and friends. I realize that all Mormons are individuals, with their own thoughts and feelings, but most do share similar traits. As religions go, they are about as homogeneous as it gets. To paraphrase BADM also-ran Scott Harris: If you're a Mormon, you probably shouldn't read the remainder of this.
The fascinating thing about the Mormon religion is that it is uniquely American. Other forms of Judeo/Christianity rely on ancient history from the Middle East. The Latter Day Saints' prophet, Joseph Smith, grew up in New York during the 1800's. It's so much more immediate, not to mention patriotic.
It's also completely insane.
The Mormons believe all the illogical and impossible stuff of the actual Bible; in addition, they tack on loads of other easily-refuted nonsense. For instance, the Book of Mormon claims that Native Americans are actually descendants of Jews from the Middle East who crossed the ocean in 600 B.C. Read that sentence again. It's not just preposterous, it's preposterous in a whole bunch of different ways. Joseph Smith's dictations also include references to elephants and horses, neither of which would have lived in America in the time he describes. Oh, and all mankind descends from Jackson County, Missouri. That's where the Garden of Eden actually was, you see.
Even the most amateur anthropologist/archeologist could explain how all these claims are ridiculous. These things are simply not true. You can believe that the sun spins around the earth (as most religions did for thousands of years), but that doesn't make it so.
Even more ludicrous is the story of how Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon. Here's the version on Wikipedia. In case you're worried about bias, I suggest you go to the LDS website. Better yet, ask a Mormon to tell it to you. Their versions will all be basically the same. No matter how you hear the story, you will be struck by one thought, assuming you possess an ounce of rationality: This story has more holes in it than Sonny Corleone. I don't have the energy to get into all of its absurd aspects, but what's not in dispute is that a man looked into a hat and translated aloud "golden plates" using a "seeing stone." He had to return the golden plates to the angel Moroni when he was done, of course, so nobody can see them.
One of the fastest-growing religions in the world is predicated upon the belief that a man spoke the revelations of God by looking into his hat. Only in America.
I have lots more to say about the Mormons, including much praise, but this is already getting long. Damn my verbosity. I'll pick up with Part II tomorrow.
If you're left wanting more, check out this brilliant South Park episode. It's one of the few times that there is no satire needed; they just tell the story of Joseph Smith and welcome incredulous laughter. I would love to hear the reactions of any Mormons who've seen it (although they may not be allowed to watch it).