A Fresh Look at Mormonism

It never gets old to hear someone discovering a “new” religion for the first time.

Mary Fons, a fantastic actress/writer living in Chicago, knew relatively little about Mormonism. But recently, she has been reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, picking up quite a bit of information in the process. (The story tells the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and focuses on the more fundamental aspects to it.)

She learned, for example, that polygamy hasn’t actually been part of church doctrine since 1890.

But there are still a whole lot of strange beliefs that haven’t gone away…

And while I’m proud of the LDS Church for rejecting polygamy (because it’s just a big ol’ mess of crazy) I can’t say I can make much sense of the religion as a whole. I’m into industriousness, I’m into discipline, I’m all for the go-get-em attitude that the LDS folks seem to embrace, but I just cannot believe that Joseph Smith business.

The angel Moroni revealed these holy gold plates to Smith but never let him take them away from where they were unearthed, of course, so no one but Joe ever saw them. Smith couldn’t read the fancy angelic language on the plates until the angel supplied him with magic glasses. Thank goodness! (The glasses are nowhere to be found, either.) Joseph Smith was a troublemaker before he was a prophet, and though reinvention is real and people can be reformed, I treat “the word of God” that came out of the mouth of a convicted fraud with some reluctance.

I still haven’t gotten to the part about the underwear. I really want to know what’s up with the underwear.

As do we all.

This isn’t an atheist ripping on a religion, by the way. Mary is a theist.

I believe in things other people don’t. I believe in God and pray every day for faith and guidance. I believe that living by spiritual principles (i.e., honesty, willingness, open-mindedness) life can be more beautiful than not living by them. I believe in green tea and I believe in change.

I do not believe in magic glasses.

(I’m not kidding about her being really talented, by the way. I saw her in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind not too long ago. She was awesome.)

On a side note, after I read her posting, I honestly didn’t care that she believed in God. I know some atheists would have issue with it. But I knew her beliefs weren’t being used to denigrate other people, so they weren’t as much of a problem for me.

At the same time, another part of me wanted to scream out that the idea of magic glasses makes as much sense as believing in God in the first place…

You pick your battles. I pass on ones like this.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Mormon, Jesus, Christian[/tags]

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I dare say that if you type “Mormon” or possibly “Mormon cartoon” in at youtube, you will quickly find this video that explains Mormon theology. It has generated quite a lot of video responses (both for and against) by present and formal Mormons. It is interesting to watch.

  • Maria

    if all religious were like Mary the world would be in much better shape I think……

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com I Could Use My Real Name But I’m Too Chicken

    the idea of magic glasses makes as much sense as believing in God in the first place…

    You just had to ruin a really good post didn’t you! ;)

  • TXatheist

    I second what Jeff said. I have the south park episode saved on my DVR but I’m sure it’s on youtube, The episode is called “All about the Mormons.”

  • K

    The underwear? “They’re sacred, not secret.” I’m sure there are still pictures on the web of how damn ugly they are. I hear from those who wear them that they are uncomfortable and chafe. Because they are for protection, you wear them against your body, your bra goes over the top of them. Yes, really. They go down over your thighs so you can never wear shorts shorter than the garments. They have sleeves so you will never wear sleeveless shirts again. Cults do love to control you in little ways that seem insignificant. They have secret Mason symbols on them, supposedly given to J. Smith by god but J was a Mason, hence the Mormon temple rituals. They are Mason rituals but not many people are both Masons and Mormons so they don’t know their own history. Which is why it works, right? LOL What else…although there has never been a formal rule that you must wear them during sex, there are many people who do wear them during sex. I even knew a girl in my ward who’s family died in a house fire. Her Aunt told her that her parents died because they weren’t wearing their garments. In bed. If you get the meaning. Speaking of sex, there was a formal mandate from the Profit…whoops….Prophet that oral sex is forbidden (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.311-12). That was from Spencer W Kimball who was infamous for saying that it is better for a woman to be killed than to be raped without putting up a fight (The Miracle of Forgiveness). But don’t think he was THAT bad of a guy (LOL) he’s the one who suddenly received revelation that all Blacks were now allowed into the Church ordinances. The LDS Church denied that it was due to the fact that the federal government was reviewing the Church’s tax-exempt status. After this the Church began a vigorous movement to eradicate any racist documents from the Church. The Book Of Mormon was changed where verses stated “White and delightsome” to “Pure and delightsome”. You did know that, right? They used to think that if you took a black person and taught them about god, the more they were righteous and believed in god, the whiter they would become. No, really. Stop laughing!
    http://www.exmormon.org/blacks1.htm
    When I was in the cult, they were still teaching that blacks were not valiant and had been fence-sitters in the pre-existence. Now, new members don’t even believe this ever happened because it’s been covered up, like the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    Under the Banner of Heaven is an excellent book that I can recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about Mormonism.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    What struck me when I was reading Krakauer’s excellent book was that I found myself, weirdly enough, thinking that the hardcore polygamist/fundamentalist Mormons actually had more integrity, of sorts, than the “Modern” ones who abandoned polygamy and some of the more racist doctrines (they haven’t backed down on their characterization of Native Americans as inferior, as far as I know).

    Sure, those doctrines were all made up by some guy anyway, and sure, they are essentially batshit loony-toons and evil, but hey, at least the fundies are consistent! What I DON’T get is how you can justify amending a text that you claim was divinely inspired, just because it’s politically and financially expedient to do so. Cherry picking is hypocritical, even when it’s used to come to the “right” conclusions. And what a coincidence that the church’s position on African Americans just “happened” to change…in the 1960s. During the height of the civil rights movement.

    Krakauer’s book truly did curl my hair — I had no idea how close Utah came to actually being formed as an independent theocratic nation, within the borders of the U.S. And the lynchings! The Mountain Meadows massacre that the Mormons did — and then blamed on Native Americans! It’s tempting, of course, to single out the Mormons as extra wacky and extra evil. But as Hemant said, are magic glasses (and underwear!) really any weirder than any old sky daddy?

  • Karen

    Yeah, I had the same reaction to Under the Banner of Heaven. Excellent, and eye-opening book. Anyone who admires the “niceness” of the Mormons needs to read about their disgusting founder and their bloody history.

    In terms of coincidences and later revelations, such as the position on blacks and polygamy changing conveniently when the church was under pressure from the larger nation, that’s something at the heart of Mormonism. Apparently it started the day Joseph Smith got an eyeful of his kids’ teenaged nanny and “had a revelation from god” about how men should take multiple wives. And guess what?! The nanny was the first “extra” wife god told Joe to take to bed with him – against her will, I might add!

    The book’s retelling of how his long-suffering, devoted, intelligent wife’s reaction to this “revelation” just broke my heart. :-(

  • http://americanscot.blogspot.com T&A

    Under The Banner of Heaven was a fantastic book!
    Having grown up in Utah, I was aware of most of the information within it. What impressed me about Krakauer’s book was how he tied the fudimentalist to the current form of mormonism.

    An excellent read!

  • Vincent

    The Mormons still to believe in polygamy of a sort.
    Since in their belief system, after you die, you maintain your life relationships in the afterlife. Your wife in this life is still your wife in the afterlife. If your wife dies and you remarry, then in the afterlife you will have 2 wives.
    At first this doesn’t seem to be a problem for an outsider, until you realize that men can have multiple wives but women can’t have more than one husband. The net result is that a man can marry another woman if his first wife dies (ad infinitum) but a widow cannot ever remarry.

  • Old Beezle

    I am an ex-mormon / post-mormon / mormon apostate. None of it’s true. Most of it’s weird. Most of the members cherry pick beliefs and find that it’s “just a good place to raise a family”…a very-tight-knit-slightly-cultish family. I have oodles of stories. http://www.exmormon.org is a pretty good source for first-hand anecdotes about de-conversion and some of the ‘different’ beliefs propounded by the LDS church. Like most believers, they are good-intentioned, but far too close-minded. Throw in the magic glasses and special underwear and voila–Mormons!

  • gsb

    I’m curious about why polygamy is always viewed as the most outrageous and scandalous of beliefs, the one that tars Mormons the most in the public consciousness. Is it just ingrained cultural and social mores? Because I can’t really think of an objective reason why consenting (and I do stress consenting) adults of sound decision making capability should not be allowed to have more than one wife, or husband or all of the above if that’s what floats their boat. (And yes, I do realize in the case of old Mormonism polygamy that it was gender biased and prone to abuse — I’m really just talking about a theoretical, egalitarian system here).

  • Richard Wade

    gsb,
    Maybe people find abject male masochism embarrassing. ;)

  • koz

    Yeah. Magic glasses, pregnant virgins, split seas… and oh yeah, God. What’s the difference?


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