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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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Fresh Faced Polygamy Compels Understanding

My wife and I watched an ABC Primetime program on plural marriage as practiced in Centennial Park. I was impressed with the coverage though it was a bit sensationalist in its promotional materials. The subjects came across as normal religious folk (if LDS are considered normal ;-) ) with just a slight twist on the traditional American family. I imagine that this would be how the LDS church would look if they reclaimed polygamy, right down to the testimonies of polygamy in testimony meeting and the Young Men/Young Women looking forward fondly to the day when they could marry plurally.

My only real concern is that, for the Centennial Park group, it seems that polygamy is still a requirement to get into God’s Kingdom. It just doesn’t work out sociologically if the number of boys and girls born are roughly equal. The show didn’t delve into the issue, but I don’t see how they can avoid the lost boy problem if polygamy is truly a requirement as it was portrayed.

I commented to my wife that it is only a matter of time before gay marriage and polygamy are both legalized. (She warned me not to put too much hope in marrying a plural wife.) Public opinion in this sphere is becoming much more libertarian. Even though it is still very polarized, the balance is tipping. Now if we could only get marriage completely deregulated. But that’s a topic for another day. :)

It would be interesting to see how the LDS Church would handle the situation if polygamy became legal in the United States.

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