Why I’m Not…a Mormon

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.

  • jamie

    I guess what I found unpersuasive about her arguments was whenever she was challenged on some point of doctrine, she would say that it’s just a “minor” point. It seems like to me that even if it seems minor to you, you should defend it if you think it’s really “biblical” and “true.” If not, then admit its wrong and say it’s something you disagree with your church on. That’s fine. The church should be big enough to allow for disagreement on “minor” theological points.

    I felt the same way when I pressed a Church of Christ attendee on the no-instruments-in-worship, and he told me it was a “minor” doctrinal point. Well, ok, but if you think it’s wrong, then just say so.

  • Tom

    I once had two Mormons – a man and a woman – on my staff. The woman was very involved in her church (and she and her husband are childless – an interesting concept within a church where family is everything). The man a little less so. The woman once gave me a book titled Jesus the Christ, which I attempted to read but could not get past the first 3 or 4 chapters because of the many differences between Christianity and Mormonism. You can gloss over “minor” differences only so many times until the number of “small” differences add up to one big hurdle. Jana Reiss does what a lot of Mormon apologists do, they soften terminology to make the differences seem minor. Her reference to “the Mormon canon” is a softened way of saying that the three books she mentioned are considered to be holy scripture on the same level as The Bible and are considered as such by Mormons. The Mormon theology of the afterlife is much more than getting your own planet. There are other points that deviate from Christianity, such as the concept of levels of heaven and who gets to the highest level. (The Mormons do, of course.) But I must defend Mormonism on some points. The treatment of women is still an issue in Christian churches, including one of the largest denominations, the Southern Baptist Church. Racism is not exclusive to Mormonism. Racism in the history of my Methodist church led to the establishment of the AME church. A few years ago, the Methodist church went through a period of admitting the error in its history and its treatment of blacks. So you won’t find me pointing fingers at the Mormons. I do agree with you, Tony, that the Mormon church is not Christianity no matter how hard Mormons try to whitewash who they are.

  • http://Cjbanning.dreamwidth.org Cole J. Banning

    Not all Christians believe we are merely “pretending” that our ritual meal is the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the majority don’t, both at present and throughout the lifetime of the Church.

  • Wyoming

    Tom,

    By Christian, do you mean 1st century Christianity or 21st? We are probably not ‘Christian’ as redefined by post-creedal Christians. Interestingly, one of the knocks on Mormonism is that we are biblical literalists in ways that distinguish us from post-creedal Christians. 1. We believe literally that we are the spiritual offspring of God – the same species and 2. All followers of Christ can become joint-heirs.

  • Zachary W.

    The importance of the trinity has been something very much on my mind recently. Like you Tony, I would tend to take a Moltmannian view on the subject, and I was taken a little off guard by what John Cobb and Paul Capetz said on Homebrewed Christianity #101. Cobb said that he didn’t have a problem with trinitarian doctrine per se, but that he didn’t think it necessary and that to use it as a measure of one’s commitment to Christ was improper. I still don’t know what to take from this. I firmly believe that both Cobb and Capetz are two of the most important American theologians working today, but their non-trinitarian stances would seem to–according to you anyway–put them on the outside looking in. On the other hand, Cobb puts especially high importance on incarnation. I’m unsure where this all leads.

    http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2011/05/09/the-big-theological-throw-down-with-john-cobb-paul-capetz-homebrewed-christianity-101/

  • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy Sherwin

    As a former Mormon, I find myself in a strange position of remaining fascinated with it while completely distancing myself from its practices, theology, and culture. I will never defend Mormonism, but I consistently find myself correcting widely held misconceptions about it, which often come across–mistakenly, I think–as apologetics, which I have no interest in.

    Tony, I appreciate your willingness to acknowledge that you may just be acclimated to the “weirdness” of your own faith; as someone who regularly attends a variety of different churches, primarily for sociological reasons, I can say that I personally find Mormonism no stranger than the vast majority of other religions or branches of Christianity, although I can see why others might.

    And Tom, I don’t see why Mormons believing in their scripture as equal to the Bible is any different from non-Mormon Christians believing that the New Testament is equal to the Old Testament. I certainly don’t think the BoM was inspired of God or a historical document, but I also have equally strong skepticism toward the majority of any sect’s scripture. The internal logic is perfectly consistent based on the initial premise, and mainline Christianity’s rejection of the Book of Mormon seems akin to Judaism’s “rejection” of the New Testament (inasmuch as it is “rejected”).

  • brad lee

    The weirdest of the weird concepts to ever come out of a religion is the Trinity. It makes no sense. And it came to be long after Christianity as a religion started. It is up there with circumcision.

  • NoCoolName_Tom

    I am still a member of record, but no longer believe in Mormonism (which has also bled into my difficulties in accepting Christianity, for full disclosure), but I feel it’s necessary to talk a little bit about this “Pre-Nicene” nonsense that seems to come up ever since Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s 2007 talk in the LDS General Conference to the Church.

    Just a few points:
    1) You will not find many scholars who will agree that there was a single, “orthodox” Christianity during the first few centuries of the Christian movement. The development towards orthodox Christianity took centuries both before *and after* the Council of Nicaea. Mormons should be careful about pointing to early Christian beliefs as being similar to their own, because even among the vast array of beliefs present through the Mediterranean they will not find a strand of Christianity that truly lines up with their modern beliefs. Sabellianism? Arianism? Marcianism? The wide range of beliefs called Gnosticism? Even if you find a community that held a similar belief in one area, they’re probably going to have something equally foreign to Mormonism in another.
    2) Building off of point 1, while the main discussion at Nicaea dealt with the Arian doctrines, Mormons should be aware that Arian Subordinationism actually lines up even less with Mormon theology than the weak Trinitarianism promoted by the Council and its Creed.
    3) The Trinitarianism promoted at Nicaea was not an invention of the Council, but was a belief already held by many in attendance. The particular inventive aspect of the Council was the use of Sabellian language in defining this doctrine strenuously enough to fight against Arianism (and it didn’t even work).
    4) The development of strong Trinitarianism took a long time after Nicaea and has always been tempered by the fact that orthodox Christians also view Modalism, or the belief that the Trinity is composed of a single entity who merely *seems* like three different entities depending on time and circumstance, is also heretical.
    5) Most Mormons are unaware of the differences between the wording, and the public acceptance by various Christian churches, of the Nicene Creed and the later-developed Athanasian Creed. Elder Holland is obviously aware of the differences, but his talk does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between the two. If you think the Nicene Creed says something about “Three in One, One in Three” then you have no idea what you’re talking about. That’s the Athanasian Creed, which is not nearly on the same level throughout Christianity as the Nicene Creed. Apart from the “homoousian/homoiousian” debate, there’s isn’t really much in the Nicene Creed that most Mormon would find objectionable.

    TL;DR; Mormons, based off of a talk given by one of their top leaders in 2007, now commonly refer to themselves as adhering to a “Pre-Nicene” Christian belief. This statement, however, ignores the immense complexity of Pre-Nicene Christian belief(s) as well as the actual development of orthodoxy in the Christian community which occurred long before and long after Nicaea.

    • Guy Briggs

      I think that your first point misses the point entirely: Our purpose in bringing up the similarities between our own beliefs and “pre-Nicene” beliefs is not to align ourselves with any of the “isms” that preceded it. It is, rather, to show that the new religious concepts that Joseph Smith – the “mentally ill charlatan” (as Jones expresses it) who allegedly made all this up – keep appearing before that time. We would expect a certain amount of that, if Mormonism is a restoration of Christianity from the time of the Apostles.

      For example, in the Book of Moses, in our Pearl of Great Price, introduces a character named Mahijah, who is dispatched to go to Enoch and ask him who is is and where he came from. In the Enoch scroll, found at Qumran, there’s a character with the same name, dispatched to go to Enoch and ask the same two questions. These are presently the only two places where this character and these two questions appear.

      Is this just an astonishingly good guess by Smith, or is something else a factor?

  • http://latterdaymainstreet.com/ Chino Blanco

    I’m trying to be honest here, and, to be honest, the stupidity factor is what keeps me from being Christian.

    j/k. Not really. But that wisecrack *did* run through my head after reading this post and some of the comments here.

  • Mike A

    All religions are “weird” since they all deal with the supernatural. I care more about how people behave and treat each other rather what they believe. Some of the worst people I’ve known have claimed to be evangelical Christians and some of the best people I’ve know have been Mormons.

    • Jeff

      I agree with you on that. But the truth is as we look around the percentage of nice folks is probably about the same among everyone everywhere. Some folks are nice and some are jerks, Mormons and all others. Yes?

  • Dave

    Imagine aliens come down to Earth. They only show up in one location, England. They only talk to a few people every generation. They don’t go anywhere else in the world. Now, there is nothing special about England. There is nothing special about the English people. Their message is one that could have been accepted all over the world, they just refused to go any where else. Would you believe it? Knowing their advanced technology meant they could have talked to EVERYONE in England, or even the whole world! I could not. I would think that if aliens talked to on or two people in England, they could have also talked to one or two people in Japan, or Canada or Australia or anywhere in the world.

    This is what Protestants and Catholics want the world to believe. They want us to think that God ONLY spoke to a few people every generation in a small land in the middle east. They don’t want you to know that God is EVERYWHERE. They don’t want you to know that he talked to people all over the Earth, not just the middle east, but the Americas, Asia, and Europe. God is willing to talk to ANYONE that will listen to him and worship him. You can call “Mormons” strange all you like, but you have the stranger religion – the one with the silent God that only existed in the middle east and refused to leave until the people there carried him out.

  • SuzyQ

    As a convert to the LDS Church, I truly fail to see how Mormons are any weirder than any other religions. I could understand Jones’ view about the underwear being SO WEIRD if he actually explained himself. But seriously, how is wearing any apparel weird just because the wearing of something is based on religion? Is it weird for Catholics priests/nuns to wear what they do, Buddhists to wear their robes, other Christians clergy to wear these collar things, Muslims to wear their unique clothes, Jews to wear their cap thing, Christians to wear their crosses? Why in the world do you care about my underwear? THAT is what is creepy! I think Jones needs to get out of his shell and see how others see him and his “Christianity.” I believe the Savior taught a few things about name calling and being judgmental. Jones’ being SO Christian and yet feeling comfortable about putting others down and declaring them unChristian makes Jones’ “Christianity” very suspect.

    • Idaho Cowboy

      SuzyQ
      Its not the underwear, SuzyQ. Its the Bish asking you if you are wearing your underwear. And if you aren’t, then its his business to question you on your faith, your tithing, what you do in your own bedroom, what you are drinking (hot drink banned? That is creepy). The fact that the BOM is pure fantasy. The fact that the D&C’s contradict the teachings of your church, i.e., the BOM was not translated from the gold plates but by JS looking into his hat at a SEER stone. I agree with you; there’s a lot more creepy stuff in the LDS church than magic underwear.

      • Christopher Hansen

        I would LOVE to debate you on the Book of Mormon being fantasy especially in comparison to the Bible. I am a legal researcher. I don’t pay income tax and have letters from the IRS that I am not required to file a 1040. I win in court on a regular basis and need to since I REFUSE to have a driver’s license. (no requirement in Nevada).

        I tried for 30 years to prove the Book of Mormon was NOT what it claimed to be and I could not. I TRIED to QUIT the Church and wanted to prove the Book of Mormon was not what it claims to be and at every turn the evidence supported the Book of Mormon being what it claims to be.

        The author claims that Joseph Smith was mentally ill. I love it when Mormon haters claim that because if he was mentally ill the it says even more positive things about the Book of Mormon being what it claims to be.

        I agree that JS could not have written the Book of Mormon. He was an ignorant uneducated backwoods boy. He did not steal it from Spaulding and did not have the education to change Spaulding’s fantasy into what it is today even if he had stolen Spaulding’s manuscript. Now you may try to claim that Satan gave Joseph the Gold plates and that Satan inspired the backwoods uneducated boy but why does the Book of Mormon tell its readers to worship Christ and follow the Ten Commandments and love their neighbors as themselves. Heck the Book of Mormon does a far better job of condemning polygamy than the Bible does which, by the way, NEVER calls polygamy a sin.

        What did Christ say about Satan not being able to divide his house? So even that explanation is a farce. Occam’s razor is good to follow.

        No one can PROVE the Book of Mormon is not scripture. I have read the Anti-Mormon diatribes repeatedly TRYING my best to disprove the Book of Mormon. And what I found is that there is far less archeological evidence for the Books of Moses and Joshua and Samuel than for the Book of Mormon.

        Talk about fantasy: Talking Snakes with legs. Staffs that turn into snakes. Water the turns to blood. Fantasy or God’s power manifest? And if God can turn a stick into a snake than God can have a boy give us the Book of Mormon.

        When Joseph Smith claimed he had a book written on Gold plates such books were unheard of. But now many books on Gold plates have been discovered in the old world and the new. The oldest know book on earth was written on Gold plates. That ole Joe Smith must have been able to see into the future?

        So PLEASE challenge me to a debate on an open forum about the proofs of your Bible (mistranslated missing books and changed sections) against the Book of Mormon. I will wipe the floor with you. And I am a high school drop out and not some scholar.

      • Jeff

        Let’s look into history a little closer. The seer stone has a place in the translation of the BoM. But recall that is was not the only implement used. Recall the Urim and Thummim with me. On another side Orson Pratt said JS used the seer until he received the Mel. Priesthood. This isn’t going to change your “wierdness” opinion, and that’s ok, but the seer stone should seen in its context.

        Creepy is such a polemic word. There are major differences in religions. As a Mormon with a Jewish history degree, I think these differences should be celebrated. I enjoy the divergence of belief that colors our world. I work in Hungary right now at the Holocaust Document Center working to promote tolerance among ethnic groups in the Balkans. Where my opinion stands is that the divergences are sometimes hard to gap. But if we can put aside the polemic words (even if that’s how we really feel) then we can truly start to see the good in all beliefs. My Hebrew professor, an advocate for Mormons-aren’t-Christians, taught me with a twinkle in his eye, that there is a lot we can learn from our “enemies.” I’ve found he is dead right!

        Dogma aside, we are all awesome! The whole earth is amazing. My personal goal is to see people learning to understand and love people like their mother might love them. One easy first step is to put aside words that might offend (from any corner of the ring) and learn to enjoy civil discussion.

        The underwear to me is a lovely part of my devotion as is a kipa, as are phylacteries, &c. To me the most unfortunate part of Mormon culture is our collective inability to not be defensive and not any of the beliefs.

  • RobM

    You offer us an entirely subjective statement, that my way of worshipping is ‘weird.’ I have no problem with that whatsoever, though I would prefer the term ‘peculiar.’

    I just wonder how anyone can ever really come closer to God by using such a biased set of criteria to adjudicate such things as who may or may not be called a follower of Christ. It’s disappointing.

  • Peter

    I am a Mormon convert from protestantism. I believe that the wierdness factor is due to differing paradigms. Certain practices and beliefs fit with different paradigms. Here are a few factors about the Mormon paradigm:

    Mormons believe that God the Father is a real person and that he is literaly the Father of our spirits. Mormons believe that we existed before we were born here and that this earth life is part of a vast, well thought out plan by God, to help us become the kind of being that he is. We believe that this earth life is patterend after the place we lived before and that our relationships, desires, talents, etc. do not change just because we are dead.

    As wierd as some of the practices may appear to the out side, Mormons see them as effective and practical in accomplishing Gods plan for us. For example, partaking of the bread and wine helps us remember our relationship to God and thus keep us on the path that God intends us to follow.

    I personally believe in a practical, loving, patient, intelligent God. I believe that he used natural principles to create the earth over billions of years.

    Mormons believe in eternal progression, the idea that we will continue to learn, work and grow after we are dead. Because of the practical nature of the religion, Mormons tend to be sincere down to earth people. Spiritual gifts such as healings and revelation are as normal as the gift of being able to teach.

    To Mormons, it would be difficult to completely trust in a God who is not of the same species as we humans. Mormons think that those who get all spiritually worked up and roll around in the isles are the wierd ones.

  • Eldoon Feeb

    “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.”

    Very true. You’re just acclimated to a particular form of weirdness. Your form of Christianity is what you’re used to, what you’re comfortable with. But that doesn’t make it real. It only makes it culture. If you had grown up in a non-Christian culture, you would probably think Christianity is not only weird, but total bunk.

  • Mavin

    Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? More specifically, do you believe that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross and that the Spirit Being Jesus went, as he promised the thief crucified next to him, to a place called paradise and that the dead body of Christ was laid in the tomb? Luke 23:33,43,53 James 2:26 Do you believe that after 3 days the Spirit of Christ reunited with the body in the tomb and the body was changed from mortal to immortal and from corruption to incorruption? Acts 2:31, 1Corinthians 15:4,53-55 Do you believe Christ when He showed his immortal body to his Apostles and testify that His resurrected body was a body of flesh and bones? Luke 24:36-39 John 20:27, Acts 1:3 Do you believe Christ when He testified that he would never die again, that he was alive forever more? Rev 1:18, Romans 6:9 And the 64 Thousand dollar question, do you believe that the Man Christ Jesus has a glorious resurrected body of flesh and bones today or did he die again and is now just a spirit? Romans 6:9, Philippians 3:21, 1John 3:2, James 2:26, Acts 1:11 If Christ did die a second death and no longer has a resurrected body of flesh and bones and is now just a spirit, can you have a hope of a resurrected glorious body like Christ’s if He does not have one? Philippians 3:21, Romans 6:5, 1Corinthians 15:13-17. The creeds of men say that “There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.” (The Westminster Confession of Faith) Do you believe the Bible and in the resurrection of Christ or do you believe the creeds of men?

  • Derek

    Whenever I see the word “weird” used with religion, for me it says more about the commentator than the subject. No offense Tony!

    For me, calling anything religious “weird” means a lack of understanding and appreciation for customs and practices other than my own.

    I believe this is an extremely dangerous practice that inevitably leads down a road of ignorance, hatred, and violence that religious wars have all too often accomplished.

    If you don’t agree with Mormonism, that is fine. But is it really impossible for you to appreciate the differences in other religions, realizing that their are many who are sincere and devout followers who are offended when they are labeled “wierd”?

    Honestly Tony, I think you are better and more intelligent than that.

  • http://marginaltheology.wordpress.com Annie

    I am not Mormon and not really a fan but this is not a terribly informative or persuasive “argument.” I don’t think Mormonism is categorically weirder–as if there were really a “threshold” for this with “orthodox” Christianity beneath it. It seems weird to you because you aren’t Mormon and you aren’t inside the paradigm. It’s not a matter of degree. It’s a matter of difference.

    Is it me or should that be blindingly obvious to a postmodern thinker?

  • Christopher Hansen

    Interesting belief. My wife quit the Catholic Church and because LDS because of the “weirdness” of the Trinity. The Trinity is a ridiculous belief that only a person with a deluded or even unstable mind could accept. They MUST ignore the Bible. Any Protestant that could accept this Catholic created garbage should go to a psychiatrist to have his head examined.

    If Joseph Smith was a mentally ill Charlatan then the Anti-Chirst Catholic priest that came up with the Trinity was a brilliant child of Satan.

    Proud to be LDS. Proud I am not a deceived believer in three in one milkshake god.

  • Christopher Hansen

    And on the “one God” garbage… You have ONE family. How many members? You have ONE jury with 12 members. YOu have one nation under God with millions of members. You have one football team with many members. You have one court with many members. You have one group with many members. How about One in purpose. Traveling in ONE direction. One Town. One State. One County? One board of directors.

    Language is filled with words that mean ONE and have many members.

    Why can God not be such a word? There is but ONE God and He has at LEAST three (3) distinct members.

    There is NO reason that One God cannot be the very same as One Family or One Team except that to believe in a three in one god is to assist in the Satanic delusion that God talks to Himself and He has to ask Himself to remove the cup and to tell people that He is proud of Himself. The Catholic/Protestant Trinity is a Schizophrenic or suffers form multiple personality disorder.

    Thank GOD, all of them, for Joseph Smith and his SANE and true explanation of the essence of the REAL God.

  • Fred Barrett

    I find it a bit frustrating that those who are or say they have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as those who have not been members have such a problem with the garments some call magic underwear when latter-day saints do not wear magic underwear.

    These same people often express their belief in the bible and I do wonder if they really have read the bible and understand what is contained in it.

    Holy garments are not new in biblical terminology.
    shalt make holy garments for Aaron, Ex. 28:2 (Ex. 28:4; Ex. 39:1).
    priest shall put on his linen garment, Lev. 6:10
    Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, Num. 20:28
    Let thy garments be always white, Eccl. 9:8
    Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, Isa. 52:1
    clothed me with the garments of salvation, Isa. 61:10
    in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, Rev. 6:11 Revelation 9:7 would most likely be understood by the saints and possibly not by those who are speaking negatively about the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the members of the church who are saints just as those who followed Jesus during his time on earth as well as the members of Christ’s Church after his death.
    These are just a few of the biblical references concerning holy garments in the bible which causes me to wonder where all of this is coming from, if it is coming from people who claim that the bible is inerrant.

    Annie you are so right! It is refreshing to discover one who is not a latter-day saint taking the position you have which in my opinion is just plain common sense.

    Mavin you hit the nail on the head I would add to your comment the fact that we are informed in 1 Cor 15: 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
    The Savior’s body was made alive by his spirit he becoming a spiritual body of flesh and bones, or in other words the spirit and the body were joined together never again to separated as you have so aptly pointed out in the bible.

    I agree with you Derek.

    In my opinion it is just a matter of ignorance as to what the latter-day saints believe, a matter of misinformation from the wrong sources. If they were to really get into the bible and study as diligently as they have their college courses I don’t think there would be all of this misunderstanding.

  • nathan

    wow, T. You kicked a nest of hornets. ;)

  • Scot Miller

    I was lucky enough to watch the Sunday matinee of “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway last weekend. I think the point of the musical is that ALL religious beliefs and practices are not only made up and somewhat weird to an outsider, but if they help people cope with the crap that life throws at them, then it’s better to have a weird and made-up religion than no religion at all.

    I don’t find Mormonism plausible for several reasons: I don’t find the story that ancient Jews came to North America plausible (any historical evidence of that?), nor that the resurrected Christ visited North America, nor the business of the sacred golden plates that nobody could read or see except for Joseph Smith, nor the idea that God originally cursed people from Africa with black skin, nor that God changed his (sic) mind about black people in 1978, nor do I find it plausible that “… God lives on a planet called Kolob…” “… Jesus has his own planet as well…” or “… the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri” (thank you, Elder Price).

    Why do I find liberal Protestantism more plausible than Mormonism? Probably because I grew up in a conservative, literal-minded Southern Baptist home, I was conditioned to revere the stories in the Old and New Testaments, and liberal Protestantism gave me a way to re-read the old stories that are not very plausible on a literal reading (creation, miracles, virgin birth, etc.). If I grew up as a Mormon, the Mormon stories may sound more plausible to me. Then again, maybe I could be a Mormon if I just took all those stories as metaphors, just as the Ugandans in the “Book of Mormon” explained the crazy reinventions of the Book of Mormon offered by Elder Cunningham.

    At the end of the “Book of Mormon,” Elder Cunningham’s weird stories had given the Ugandans hope and purpose. The church hierarchy, of course, wasn’t happy to hear the changes (e.g., Joseph Smith had AIDS and wanted to have sex with a baby, but God gave him a magical frog to have sex with, which cured his AIDS, etc.). The changes were too much for the hierarchy, who condemned the villagers and the missionaries as being Mormon apostates… not even Mormons at all. But Elder Cunningham and Elder Price realized that they had really helped the villagers in that situation, that just as the Book of Mormon spoke to the people of Upstate New York and the NT to the Jews in Roman-occupied Israel, the crazy stories made up by Elder Cunningham helped the Ugandans. So maybe it was time for a newer revelation of Jesus Christ… OT, NT, Mormon, and now the Book of Arnold.

    While I don’t find many Mormon beliefs plausible, I am certain that some people don’t find my beliefs plausible, either. In fact, on Tony’s blog I’ve been informed that I am not even a Christian. Whatever. I’m not so certain that conformity of belief is as significant as living a decent life and helping people. If being part of Mormon community leads to right action, then more power to them.

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  • humbled

    I too am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I consider myself a Christian and am very accepting of all religions. I believe God has a purpose for each one of us and that all will be revealed when the time is right. I do find certain doctrines “colourful” at times but then the same can be said for all religions. I guess for me I don’t believe any church has the rights to Jesus Christ, we all love and worship him in a manner and interpretation that suits us best.

    At the end of the day I love my heavenly Father and my saviour Jesus Christ, everything else is trivial, does that make any sense? My membership is not based on whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or our sexy underwear :-) its based on the love and support I feel in our church from people who are striving to live the teachings of Jesus Christ. My choice to wear my garments are my own, I am not one to be bullied. I wear them as a reminder of the covenants I made with God.

    Besides I really feel religious people the world over should be pooling together to fight the new atheists. Here in the UK religion is on its way out. None of our youngsters believe in God anymore. This of course is to be expected now creation in no longer taught at school. I can see how this country has decayed since its turned way from Christian values. Morality and ethics are slipping and people seem to be wondering around without purpose or direction.

    God bless you all my friends


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