Yes, there are several unreasonable — even unsavory — aspects to orthodox Christianity. On a regular basis, we eat a ritualistic meal that we pretend it flesh and blood. We venerate a symbol of torture and the death penalty. Maybe I’ve just been acclimated to those parts of my faith. I’m sure that to a non-believer, they seem just as weird as the weirdness of Mormonism.
But to me, Mormonism reaches a different level of weirdness, and it’s one that I just can’t abide.
I’ve written before about the sacred undergarments, which I find creepy and inexplicable. And I’ve written about my discomfort with Mormon history. I think that Mormon christology and eschatology are unorthodox. And I think that Joseph Smith was a mentally ill charlatan.
The most powerful Mormon apologist I know is Jana Reiss, who I count as a friend. Recently, on Rachel Held Evan’s blog, Jana answered some questions about being Mormon. Jana is an adult convert to the LDS church, and she explained it thusly,
Oddly, I converted to Mormonism when I was enrolled in a Protestant seminary studying to be a pastor. I was 23 years old. I would say that my conversion, like most other people’s, was a combination of push and pull factors. For me a major push factor was studying Protestant theology and coming to realize that I didn’t believe in the Trinity. This was a serious problem; how could I become a minister when I had no conviction about this key point of doctrine? I wished very much that I could believe in the Trinity, because I love the idea of God in relationship – that a relationship among equals is in fact the defining feature of God’s identity. However, the three-in-one concept never quite added up for me.
There are, of course, other ways to be a non-Trinitarian Christian (though one might ask, can someone be a non-Trinitarian Christian? I would tend to answer no.) Jana spends a lot of time on her blog arguing for the rationality of Mormonism, and telling us that the most irrational aspects, like sacred undergarments, are actually small and relatively insignificant parts of the faith. I am doing the very thing that she asks critics not to do — that is, focus on the unsavory, and minor details.
What I also know, because I’ve studied it at length, is that Mormon teenagers are the most faithful teenagers in America, by almost every measurement.
But, I guess there is a threshhold of weirdness for me when it comes to a religion. I can handle the weirdness and irrationality of orthodox Christianity, but the weirdness and irrationality of Mormonism is a bridge too far.
That’s inconsistent and unfair, I know. And I proffer my apologies to Jana and other Mormons for calling their beliefs “weird” — I’m just saying they’re somewhat more weird than my own. But I’m trying to be honest here, and, to be honest, the weirdness factor is what keeps me from being Mormon.