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A View from the Outside

I ran across a couple of statements about Mormonism from outsiders to the religion today. The first was an excerpt on Mormonism from Christoper Hitchens’ new book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. He got some Mormon trivia wrong here and there, but his take on Mormonism was largely well informed and unsurprisingly negative. May I never be on the wrong end of Hitchens’ scorching eloquence.

I also watched Bill Maher’s recent discussion on Mormonism. Yes Harriet, Elder Mark E. Petersen did preach that “If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.” and President Brigham Young taught that a white man who “mixes his blood with the seed of Cain” (i.e. descendants of black Africans) should be punished with death. I had to look those statements up (this was news to me), but I’m not too surprised that they in fact taught exactly what he said.

What these critics say is substantively accurate. It is not anti-Mormon lies. It is based on the unvarnished, un-correlated facts. Apologetics only works on the faithful. To most everyone else, it looks like excuses. This is the greatest threat that I can see to Mormonism: the truth.

I feel a kind of sympathy for Mormons over the next few years. Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President of the United States is going to put Mormon beliefs in the spotlight of American consciousness even more than the Winter 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. People are going to want to know what a potential Mormon President’s beliefs are all about. Mormonism is going to get publicly scrutinized, and I have a feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty in a lot of cases if these two examples are a good indicator. They will watch as their religion is attacked in the public arena. They’re going to learn facts about their past which have been censored from church approved materials. Many will retreat behind comfortable lies to excuse their religion, but some will take the truth to heart. I feel sympathy because I remember how painful it was to unlearn what I thought I knew.

More and more, I think the public is going to see all the uncomfortable secrets hidden in Mormonism’s closet. Personally, I hope (probably without good reason) that seeing Mormonism’s foibles will cause them to examine the skeleton’s in their own closets.

By the way, don’t forget to watch the Frontline and American Experience documentaries about The Mormons next Monday and Tuesday.

They’re all crazy!—Bill Maher

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  1. Hellmut said,

    May 1, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

    The Seventh Day Adventists had similar issues and eventually decided to have a clean break. It was quite a shock and they lost almost a third of their membership. But now they are a much healthier organization with stringent transparency rules. As a result, they are growing rapidly.

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    May 1, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

    Interesting. I hadn’t heard about that. Trimming the fat, if I can be so callous, would be a good thing. That runs counter to Boyd K. Packer’s famous “Some things that are true are not very useful” doctrine. The church leadership would have to give up their position as philosopher-kings patronizingly protecting the weak membership from truth that they shouldn’t worry themselves about. They would have to give up on lying for God. I think it would be a bitter pill to swallow, but I’m sure they would feel much better in the morning.

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