Chesterton on the Mormons

Chesterton on the Mormons July 6, 2018

 

Featuring Elder Isoldi Keane!
Curiously, sympathetic and high quality British films like the 1922 documentary advertised in this vintage photograph failed to convince absolutely all English men and women to admire Mormonism and to give serious attention to its history and doctrines.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)

 

I’ve quoted the great G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) several times lately.  This has apparently disturbed some of my critics.

 

One of them suspects that I may be unaware of the fact that Chesterton was a Roman Catholic apologist who probably didn’t think very highly of Mormonism.

 

And, indeed, it stunned me to learn this.

 

A Catholic!  Who wouldda thunk it?

 

Having never, myself, been more than three miles outside of Fountain Green, Utah, I didn’t realize that there still were Catholics!

 

But it certainly explains some of what was going on in his Father Brown mysteries, to saying nothing of books like Saint Francis of Assisi (1923) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (1933) — all of which I own and have enjoyed.

 

Another critic then cites a passage that actually suggests Chesterton’s opinion of Mormons and Mormonism:

 

The basic Mormon belief is one that comes out of the morning of the earth, from the most primitive and even infantile attitude. Their chief dogma is that God is material, not that He was materialized once, as all Christians believe; nor that He is materialized specially, as all Catholics believe; but that He was materially embodied from all time; that He has a local habitation as well as a name. Under the influence of this barbaric but violently vivid conception, these people crossed a great desert with their guns and oxen, patiently, persistently, and courageously, as if they were following a vast and visible giant who was striding across the plains. In other words this strange sect, by soaking itself solely in the Hebrew Scriptures, had really managed to reproduce the atmosphere of those Scriptures as they are felt by Hebrews rather than by Christians. A number of dull, earnest, ignorant, black-coated men with chimney-pot hats, chin beards or mutton-chop whiskers, managed to reproduce in their own souls the richness and the peril of an ancient Oriental experience. If we think from this end we may possibly guess how it was that they added polygamy.

 

Again, I’m amazed.  To think that there were Englishmen born and raised in the late nineteenth century who knew little about Mormonism, didn’t think highly of it, and failed to convert to it . . .  well, suffice it to say that I find that absolutely shocking.

 

Of course, I’m going to conceal from you what Chesterton had to say about the Latter-day Saints, because, as my Malevolent Stalker reveals in response to the two critics mentioned above, I regard you all as “morons.”  I suspect that I want you to go on imagining that absolutely everybody out there admires us and secretly wants to convert to Mormonism — or, indeed, that everybody already is Mormon.  Whatever you do, don’t leave Fountain Green!

 

Posted from Newport Beach, California

 

Postscript:  An alert reader, posting (as he should!) from Fountain Green, Utah, reminds me that I had previously hidden G. K. Chesterton’s critical attitude toward Mormonism from my readers — including the very passage above — on 7 June 2015:

 

“A passage from the great G. K. Chesterton, on Mormonism”

 

I’m very consistent!

 

 

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