Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Revisiting Joseph Smith's Novel History

The underestimation of the divide between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity (CWR, April 5, 2013)

by Joseph F. Martin

Left: Portrait of Joseph Smith by an unknown painter, c. 1842. Right: A stained glass window (1913) depicting Smith's claimed encounter with Jesus and God the Father, on display at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.
It is safe to say that when the Mormons built a fantastic, six-spired, gleaming Mormon Temple outside of Washington, DC in 1974, not too many East Coasters were familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) story. I recall gawking at the temple during a drive, as my brother’s Catholic friend knowingly intoned that the gold figure topping the tallest spire represented the angel Gabriel blowing his trumpet at the end of the world. To my then-Methodist ears that sounded appealingly Evangelical. And of course it was entirely wrong. But it was typical of how most people approached Mormonism, interpreting their encounters with LDS believers with the assumption that they shared a common Christian vocabulary and frame of reference with the group, which, while maybe a bit separatist, had to be essentially like all the other “denominations.”

In the years since, thanks to Mormonism’s exponential growth and our accelerated media culture, the LDS church has become far less of a mystery in many ways. Stories of Joseph Smith’s vision and his digging up golden plates from which he translated The Book of Mormon—essentially an Incan reimagining of the New Testament—as well as Brigham Young’s trek across the Rockies have become just another chapter in American lore. Mormons tend to be outstanding people, salt of the earth—and with Western culture rapidly secularizing, many Christians now are advocating that the LDS are actually separated, albeit peculiarly so, brethren.

This seems to be the take of Stephen Webb. In a fascinating piece for First Things (Feb. 2012), titled “Mormonism Obsessed with Christ,” he says that for a large part of his teaching career, he did not try to hide his condescension towards Mormonism. But, Webb writes, “I have come to repent of this view, and not just because I came to my senses about how wrong it is to be rude toward somebody else’s faith. I changed my mind because I came to realize just how deeply Christ-centered Mormonism is.”
For Martin's thoughtful critique of this attitude, Read More Here >>


I am not Spartacus said...

Only a man like Glenn Beck could believe the Mormon Doctrine that Jesus exists because God the Father had physical-sexual intercourse with Mary and who cares if men like Glenn Beck help take out the garbage and read to their kids and store five thousand years worth of dried beets in their cellar and plan to defend that cellar with machine guns; Mormonism is INSANE and treating it as a serious matter is as wrong as Beck is dumb.

Are we supposed to seriously engage in disproving the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster; which, frankly, is more believable than Mormonism

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Joseph Smith was the L Ron Hubbard of his century, and the only thing which makes Mormonism respectable these days is $$$$. Rich and influential people believe in it. At least as far back as Eisenhower's appointment of Ezra Taft Benson as his agriculture secretary, Mormonism and the republican establishment have been as close and cuddly as all those same sex couples you see nuzzling like ferrets on cable news gabfests. Rich guys have influence. They know people who know people who fix things, make problems go away, open doors for talentless junior rich guys.

The theology is a joke, because a joke is all that is required. Its really about knowing the secret handshake.

Liberals now have their own version of Mormonism: its called Scientology. Its members have gobs of money and know just as many people as the Mormons. It probably won't be long before one of them runs for president.

Stephen Webb's article is duplicitous gaak written for consumption by credulous Neo-Caths, who take the social issue "alliance" with the Republican party seriously, and for whom "First Things" is a natural nesting ground.

To paraphrase Gene Wilder in that hilarious masterpiece of zionist revisionism, "Blazing Saddles," First Things NeoCaths are simple folk, the salt of the earth, the common clay -- "you know, morons!"