Why I Think Mormons Are Swell Eggs

This is the original; the copy looks the same, only with a cooler background.
Newsweek reports that America is “having a Mormon moment.” Followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are all over the news, but still, it seems, a long shot for the White House:

No question the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “having a moment.” Not only is Romney running again—this time, he’s likely to be competing against his distant Mormon cousin Jon Huntsman Jr. The Senate, meanwhile, is led by Mormon Harry Reid. Beyond the Beltway, the Twilight vampire novels of Mormon Stephenie Meyer sell tens of millions of copies, Mormon convert Glenn Beck inspires daily devotion and outrage with his radio show, and HBO generated lots of attention with the Big Love finale. Even Broadway has gotten in on the act, giving us The Book of Mormon, a big-budget musical about Mormon missionaries by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q writer Robert Lopez that, with 14 nominations, is expected to clean up at the Tony Awards on June 12.

But despite the sudden proliferation of Mormons in the mainstream, Mormonism itself isn’t any closer to gaining mainstream acceptance. And nowhere is the gap between increased exposure and actual progress more pronounced than in politics. In recent weeks NEWSWEEK called every one of the 15 Mormons currently serving in the U.S. Congress to ask if they would be willing to discuss their faith; the only politicians who agreed to speak on the record were the four who represent districts with substantial Mormon populations. The rest were “private about their faith,” or “politicians first and Mormons second,” according to their spokespeople.

The evasiveness extends even to presidential candidates. In late 2007 Romney traveled to Texas A&M to soothe evangelicals with a speech that downplayed the distinctiveness of Mormonism. “It’s important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America,” he said, “we share a common creed of moral convictions.” Since then, Romney has rarely commented on the subject.

Here at Patheos, Warren Cole Smith, explains why he’ll never, ever, EVER vote for a Mormon. “The Christian worldview,” he writes, “teaches that there is a short tether binding beliefs to the values and behaviors that flow from them. If the beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually—but inevitably—be warped.”

Well, I, for one, happen to have a soft spot for Mormons. By my lights, they’ve got more than enough to recommend themselves — as people, and as contributors to the general culture of this great nation — that I’d be proud to cast a vote for one. Among their more endearing accomplishments:

10. Their Church is not a democracy, yet it’s strikingly egalitarian. Anyone can become president of the Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Really. Ezra Taft Benson, who held the office from 1985 through 1994, earned his degree from BYU. Spencer W. Kimball, who preceded him, earned his from — it tastes like ashes in my mouth — the University of Arizona. Thomas S. Monson, the guy they’ve got now, graduated the University of Utah, and made his fortune in publishing. If this is elitism, it’s my kind of elitism.

9. They do aggiornamento. The word, familiar to most Catholics but gibberish the rest of the world (outside Italy, of course), means, roughly, “updating.” We tried it once, during the Second Vatican Council. The updates represented dozens of years of study by hundreds of theologians, plus three years of conciliar wrangling. When the LDS leadership decided to abolish plural marriage (1890) and admit blacks to the priesthood (1978), the orders came down fast and easy, probably preceded by: “NOW HEAR THIS.” Hey, gang at National Catholic Reporter — are you guys feeling jealous?

8. They’ve been the subject of Chick Tracts. Speaking as a connoissieur, I’d put The Visitors up against The Death Cookie any day. And The Enchanter, Chick Publications’ full-length graphic novel on the life of LDS prophet Joseph Smith, looks a match for any of the titles on Jesuit conspiracies.

7. For a bunch of red-staters, they’ve got amazingly good taste in art. To spruce up Temple Square, Mormons selected a copy of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus, showing Jesus resurrected. Yeah, that’s right — turns out Jesus cuts as fine a figure alive as he does dead. Who knew?

6. They’ve inspired some impressive works of art. The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez’ backhanded tribute to LDS missionaries, won Best Musical at the 2011 Tony Awards. Each half of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, which draws heavily on Mormon themes and imagery, won a Tony for Best Play. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made Mormonism the backdrop for “A Study in Scarlet,” the first story in the Sherlock Holmes series. Beat that, Baptists.

5. They’ve created some impressive works of art. Two words: Napoleon Dynamite.

4. They seem to have a very generous cosmology. I’m no expert, but the way I understand it, you have to be a complete jerk to end up in Outer Darkness. The Telestial Kingdom,, where most garden-variety sinners go to dwell, has always sounded to me like south Scottsdale. It’s a little on the dingy side, but more than bearable.

3. Wilford Brimley. When I was fourteen, the man got me eating my oatmeal, and I haven’t stopped since.

2. Allie, the office manager of the mortgage company where I used to work. Though ten years my junior (and in looks, a first cousin to Christina Applegate), she took a mother’s care of me. For my birthday, she got me a caramel-covered cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. When I broke my front tooth on a frozen Twizzler, she arranged for a cousin of hers, a dentist, to bridge me up at a discount. A fundie would have tossed me Graham Crackers and Scripture — on both occasions.

1. Their faith was tested in the fire of persecution, and the persecution had absolutely nothing to do with us. Whew.

  • John Monday

    I know a lot of folks who don’t eat eggs (they’re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here’s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs: http://EggFreeLiving.com

  • Warren Jewell

    For yourself, though, John M., do you prefer your eggs soft-boiled or over-easy but NOT by a Catholic cook?

    Put me with Warren Cole Smith (Howyadoin’, another-Warren?) on trusting Mormons like I trust Wiccans. Their embodiment of ‘heaven’ has a tiered sectioning, almost tiered sectarianism. Top heaven, natch, for Mormons; second level those who help Mormons; and third level for the ‘all-others’, those befouled gentiles. No clear means of ‘helping Mormons’ is given, but I’m not sure it doesn’t include panhandling, conniving and blackmail.

    I also love how they show up at your door but take ‘passes on authority’; i.e., avoiding answering questions they don’t want to answer.

    Yet, peace to all, and we can live with each other as well as we can.

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  • Jan

    Max.

    Max, Max, Max.

    No. You can’t even jest about things like this…

    I guess you live among them down there in Arizona, but I live deep in their ranks in Small-Town Utah. You might be flabbergasted by what their opinions of Catholicism and Catholics are.

    None of the points you mention reflect their theology, per se. It’s true, you’re average, run-of-the-mill Mormon is a good person, but they are the merely the facade.

    One interesting little tidbit garnered from one of the children’s friends – from the mouths of babes – the lowest level of the heavenly kingdom, the Telestial, is in fact, Hell, and it’s where people like you and I go…that is, good practicing Catholics and various other non-LDS.

    And don’t forget – it’s written somewhere in their theology that a Mormon president (of the USA) is going to be the one to “rescue the Constitution which is hanging by a thread”.

    We can call it silly all we want, but the people that will be deceived by that sort of coincidence, if it should happen, would be disastrous!

    But I’m with you 100% on Napoleon Dynamite!

  • Dave

    Jan.
    Jan, Jan, Jan.

    How about the next time you have questions about Mormons you ask a missionary instead of a 6 year old. My 6 year old thinks Abe Lincoln wrote the constitution.

    The Telestial Kingdom is not Hell. And no where in Mormon Theology is it preached that a Mormon President will rescue the constitution, which will be hanging by a thread. And Uncle Rico would never have gone pro!

    I dare you to research the Mormon religion rather than basing your opinions on hearsay and child speak. Look into it. Read the Book of Mormon, read the words of their leaders. Look into historical statements by past leaders. See if your opinions are confirmed. Do the research before you post untruths.

  • http://decentfilms.com/ SDG

    Mormons are swell eggs, often enough. They are not Christians, or even theists in the proper sense.

  • T B

    Thank You SDG; for all the debate on whether Mormons are Christian or not, the question is: are they atheists.

    Don’t Mormons believe their heavenly father is some alien from some other planet who became a god? That’s not the Most High, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, and of ALL things seen and unseen.

    Oh I’m sure they’re fine people, and in consideration of their invincible ignorance, and a baptism of desire, may well be saved, but aren’t they in effect atheists?

  • http://decentfilms.com/ SDG

    T B: As I said, Mormons aren’t theists, but that doesn’t make them atheists. Otherwise all pagans, heathens and polytheists would also be “atheists” — a strange charge, particularly since when Christians first came on the scene the pagans called US “atheists” since there were so many gods we didn’t believe in!

    The term “atheist” does not mean “one who is not a theist,” i.e., does not believe in an absolute, infinite, personal God. It means “one who does not believe in any sort of god or divinity,” understanding “god” or “divinity” quite loosely.

    For instance, one might say that a “god” is any powerful being upon whom in some way our lives or fortunes depend and to whom we owe religious piety or duty. In that sense, Mormons certainly believe in a god, and are therefore not atheists, even though they are not theists in the Abrahamic sense.

  • DWiss

    I’ve known quite a few Mormons and they’ve all been exceptionally good, upstanding people. They make me wish Catholics would represent Catholicism so well. I’ve said so before – outloud – and been shouted down, sort of in the vein that Jan (above) stated.

    What little I know of Mormonism, though, leaves me shaking my head. It’s so different from Christian belief…why didn’t Jesus just say it the way the first time around?

    I’ve never had a Mormon knocking on my door, but when I tried to engage some that I’ve known in a theological discussion there were no takers. Crickets chirping. I doubt that’s because of my invincible feats of apologetics.


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