Friday, July 20, 2012

The Book of Mormon: Gateway Drug To Mormonism

The Wall Street Journal featured a nice little puff piece on the Hill Cumorah Pageant today, A Pageant of Mormon History and Mirth. This pageant, like other mormon historical sites and events, plays a crucial role in sustaining the faith of mormons in their church. One of the many oddities about mormonism is the role of the story of the Book of Mormon, both the events it alleges and the story of how it was “discovered” and “translated” by Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is sort of the gateway drug for mormonism. It doesn’t really contain any of the squirrelly teachings of mormonism about polygamy or becoming gods but mormon missionaries ask prospective converts to pray about the Book of Mormon to determine whether it is true or not. If you affirm that the Book of Mormon is “true” then you must aknowledge Smith as a prophet and therefore accept the rest of his crackpot theories and fanciful teachings, from men becoming gods to God Himself telling Joseph to cheat on his wife but not reveal this revelation until his wife wised up to his infidelity. Once you accept the Book of Mormon and join the mormon religion you are slowly introduced to the rest of the teachings of mormonism.

Unlike Christianity, where Christians lay it all on the table while preaching the Gospel, mormon proselytizing efforts focus on getting an emotion driven assent to a poorly written, repetitive book rather than on exaltation, the pre-existence, polygamy and other aberrant mormon teachings. Little wonder that new converts are banned from the “temple” for at least a year to make sure that they are deeply integrated into the mormon story and experience to offset the disturbing events of the “temple” ceremony.

Here is my comment on the original article.

Events like these pageants are crucial to the narrative of mormonism. Mormonism at its core is basically a fairly recent story and adherents really base their entire faith on the story told by Joseph Smith: Is it believable or not? Not the actual events of the Book of Mormon itself as those defy logic, history and evidence. No, the core question is whether or not you believe the most recent iteration of Joseph Smith’s story. Did he really receive some sort of angelic visitor that led him to some plates that were conveniently buried near his home, plates that he “translated” using a variety of methods depending on which version of the story you read, from magic stones in a hat to the “Urim and Thummim”. Did those plates really exist and were they really a record of Jews who fled to America, built an enormous civilization that vanished with nary a trace and were visited by Jesus Christ? If you believe that story, then Smith must have been a prophet and so all of his crackpot teachings that followed and his immoral and outrageous behavior must have had a good reason. If you don’t believe that Smith was telling the truth about the Book of Mormon then it follows that he made up the whole thing, a giant web of lies that kept expanding every time Smith was confronted with mummies or a woman (or young girl) that he lusted after.

If at any point you doubt the story told by Joseph Smith, the whole thing collapses, so it is crucial to drive this narrative home at an early age and constantly reinforce the mormon mythology where all of the mormons are persecuted heroes and all of the doubters dastardly bad guys. Whereas church history is tragically neglected among most Christians, in the mormon religion their church history IS the church. You must affirm the current prophet, no matter what he says, and every prior prophet or you lose the whole house of cards. The leaders of mormonism know this all too well which explains the pageants, the church historical sites, the constant reminders of mormon lore and they discouraging of ordinary mormons from digging too deeply into non-faith affirming history that tends to reflect poorly on the narrative being spun by the brethren.

Mormonism really is a religion based on the story told by Joseph Smith. It stands or falls on his story. If it is true, then mormonism is true no matter how it defies logic, history and especially the Bible. If his story is false then he is a liar, the Book of Mormon is a lie and ultimately mormonism is shown to be what it really is: a pseudo-Christian religious cult that mixed a few truths in with a bunch of lies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trading one lie for another

I read something both interesting and sad this morning, I Was a Good Mormon Wife ... Until My Husband Stopped Believing in God. The author, Maren Stephenson, sounds like the prototypical young mormon wife. While we were older when we joined, I understand the mindset she had:

I was only 19 on the day we were sealed for eternity, the wet snow blowing into our faces as we exited the Portland, Ore., temple. I imagined a life of Church service, my husband at my side as we finished our BYU degrees, raised our children, and served missions together in our old age. On the night we got engaged, we struck a deal. “I’ll get you to heaven,” I said. “But you have to keep me here on earth.”

That is mormonism in a nutshell. A nice, neat life of being good mormons and an eternity as gods. Just stop thinking and do as you are told and everything is planned out for you. My wife and I had similar dreams until the lies of mormonism came to light. In this case her husband stopped believing not just in mormonism but God in general, an all too often outcome. Marne followed her husband into unbelief. She traded the lie of mormonism for the lie of "freedom" from God. For so many mormons faith outside of mormonism is unthinkable and many mormons who discover the truth about mormonism simply walk away into unbelief. Either way, the enemy is pleased.

I read this story with sadness and yet I also am profoundly reminded that outside of the grace of God my wife and I could be in the same boat, free from mormonism but still trapped in the bondage of sin. I pray that God will save the Stephenson's just as He saved us. True freedom is not found in drinking coffee or buying different underwear, it is only found by resting in Christ and calling Him Lord.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Bargains?

Further proof that the mormon church is the true, restored church.

Late last March the Mormon Church completed an ambitious project: a megamall. Built for roughly $2 billion, the City Creek Center stands directly across the street from the church’s iconic, neo-Gothic temple in Salt Lake City. The mall includes a retractable glass roof, 5,000 underground parking spots, and nearly 100 stores and restaurants, ranging from Tiffany’s to Forever 21. Walkways link the open-air emporium with the church’s perfectly manicured headquarters on Temple Square. Macy’s is a stone’s throw from the offices of the church’s president, Thomas S. Monson, whom Mormons believe to be a living prophet.

On the morning of its grand opening, thousands of shoppers thronged downtown Salt Lake, eager to elbow their way into the stores. The national anthem blared, and Henry B. Eyring, one of Monson’s top counselors, told the crowds, “Everything that we see around us is evidence of the long-standing commitment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City.” When it came time to cut the mall’s flouncy pink ribbon, Monson, flanked by Utah dignitaries, cheered, “One, two, three—let’s go shopping!”

Watching a religious leader celebrate a mall may seem surreal, but City Creek reflects the spirit of enterprise that animates modern-day Mormonism. The mall is part of a vast church-owned corporate empire that the Mormon leadership says will help spread its message, increase economic self-reliance, and build the Kingdom of God on earth. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attends to the total needs of its members,” says Keith B. McMullin, who for 37 years served within the Mormon leadership and now heads a church-owned holding company, Deseret Management Corporation (DMC), an umbrella organization for many of the church’s for-profit businesses. “We look to not only the spiritual but also the temporal, and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually.”

Hey, the apostles' invested in real estate and fostered conspicuous consumption. Right?