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PostMormonism and Judaism (Istvan Simon, USA, 07/30/12 9:05 pm)
It is a pleasure for me to acknowledge publicly on WAIS that I agree with Alain de Benoist 100% on his post of 30 July.
JE comments: I don't usually publish "attaboys" on WAIS, but I think this conciliatory note is just what the doctor ordered. The gadfly in me might point out that Istvan and Alain are both in agreement on the absurdity of the LDS/Mormon "lost tribes of Israel" doctrine.
WAISers by and large have a harsh appraisal of Mormonism.
Good night to all from gritty, bustling Cali. I'll be posting more information on this fascinating city in the coming days. For now, I'll acknowledge that its "MIO" urban bus system is safe, convenient, and very comfortable.
More on Mormonism
(Istvan Simon, USA
07/31/12 6:08 AM)
On 30 July, JE said that WAISers have a harsh view of Mormonism.
I do not think that I do. For almost 25 years I had Mormon neighbors on both sides of my home. I did not have a harsh view of them at all. They were very good people, who took care of their numerous children, who in turn were polite, and did all the right things that they should have.
One of my neighbor's wife spent a great deal of energy trying to convert me. I did not like this aspect of her, but I think she did it for a good reason, in her own mind, however misguided. So generally speaking, I would speak positively of Mormons. But that does not mean that I believe in what they believe.
Both my Mormon neighbors took care of my home when I was not here. When I was in China, one of them cleaned my gutters, the other cut my grass. This is one of the many wonderful things that only happen in America: neighbors take care of neighbors, without asking, and without expecting anything in return.
JE comments: I have some Mormon colleagues, and like Istvan Simon, I have nothing but the best to say about their collegiality and work ethic. I should clarify that I said WAISers have a harsh view of Mormonism, not of the individual LDS faithful. This is just my appraisal from the comments I've edited over the last six years.
More on Mormonism
(Henry Levin, USA
07/31/12 7:34 AM)
My contacts with Mormons at the personal level have always been positive and constructive and convivial. My only negative experience was when I was a consultant for a Mormon senator in the California Legislature some 40 years ago.
We had to hire some full-time staff members. He interviewed some and hired two. Both were incompetent. They were neither experienced nor sophisticated in doing analytic work, although both were very pleasant persons. Naively, I asked one of them how he had been chosen. He was naive enough in his response to tell me that Mormons are obligated to hire their own, even with public funds, because it contributes to the income from tithing for the Church. Whether the Senator was overly zealous on this count or whether he just responded to this logic, I don't know. But I had to do the work of these two because they were hopeless.
When I broached the issue delicately with the Senator, he told me that these were the top two candidates from the Master's program in Public Administration at the University of Southern California, according to the head of that program. I did not ask him about the religious affiliation of the head of that program. I have never used religion as a criterion for choosing staff members.
JE comments: I hate to generalize, but I've also perceived that Mormons look out for their own. Perhaps this is no different from any other "tribes"--especially the ones that have historically been marginalized by larger society.
One thing I cannot praise enough: Mormons, due to their missionary zeal, excel at foreign languages. I cannot think of another US demographic that rivals them. This, together with their abstemious habits and keen work ethic, has put them in demand in the US foreign service.
More on Mormonism
(David Duggan, USA
08/03/12 4:34 AM)
I went to college near Joseph Smith's birthplace (Sharon, Vermont), and after my freshman year during the summer of 1970 was proselytized by two Mormon missionaries who were posted there. I have to admit that there was something refreshing about two clean-cut (I was anything but a hippie then) young men out on their own trying to advance the faith, and I gave them the attention they deserved.
Though I have no recollection of being disaffected with the faith of my upbringing, and had no particular reason to inquire about Mormonism, as an impressionable 18-year old I thought what the heck: the mainline churches weren't doing much to preach the Gospel, preferring social activism and ending the war in Vietnam to personal salvation. With some felt-board visual effects, they explained the visitation by the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith, the discovery of the golden sheaves, the presence of lighter-skinned native Americans who were descendants of the ancient Israelites (citing the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki experiment as proof that it could have happened), Smith's being anointed to re-establish the true church, and other bits of Mormon lore. The two missionaries were academically gifted (one at Stanford, the other at the Y, code for BYU), and one of them was a tremendous tennis player who had never seen Eastern clay courts before. So there was a personal bond that made the message appealing. I probably thought some of the lore improbable, and the theology difficult (particularly the blacks can't be priests part: I was spending the summer tutoring inner-city black high school students who were trying to better their learning environment), but perhaps no more inane than other Christian doctrines that I accepted "on faith" (e.g., the Resurrection). (Perhaps to their credit, Mormons soon thereafter changed the part about blacks' inferior role in their non-ordained ministry; they have yet to relent on alcohol and caffeine and I'm still waiting.)
But then, as they sought to seal the deal (I guess I would have had to be re-baptized), they mentioned that the Mormon church had the largest softball league around. Wait a minute, I thought: the church isn't a rec league, that's what YMCA's are for. The church is to save souls. I politely declined.
Coincidentally, later that summer my family took a western vacation, which included a trip to Salt Lake City and the Mormon visitor center there (non-members are not allowed into their Tabernacle). We saw a movie about the faith, which concluded with an elderly couple (not too old: they had to be telegenic) welcoming each other in the great beyond to resume their earthly marital bliss, wearing white robes amidst the clouds. My mother, though not overly religious, nonetheless had a great sense of the absurd and perhaps just enough knowledge of the Bible to know that Jesus had said that "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage." Luke 20: 34-35, and see Matt: 22:23-33. Who were the Mormons to contradict this rather explicit statement from Jesus?
As to the Mormons' selection of their own (see Henry Levin, 31 July), there have been persistent rumors that Chicago-area graduate school deans of the Mormon faith do that, but does that detract from their competence? Howard Hughes, a libertine if ever there was one but wealthy enough to hire whomever he wanted, hired only Mormons for his top positions. I suppose a cynic might say that paranoids of whatever stripe need to keep together, but I'll let the reader decide for himself.
JE comments: When did the LDS church begin to allow the ordination of African-Americans? I would guess sometime in the 1970s. At home I have a copy of the book Mormonism and the Negro, from the 1960s, which is a very thorough defense of the Mormon practice of excluding Blacks from the ministry. It's a unapologetically racist text, and I'm sure many Mormons would prefer that it be forgotten.
LDS Ordination of African-Americans
(John Recchiuti, USA
08/04/12 3:53 AM)
In answer to John Eipper's question of 3 August, the LDS church, on June 8, 1978, admitted black men into the priesthood. As I recall, Mitt Romney has said that he heard the news over his car radio as he was driving, and that he had had to pull his car over to the side of the road and weep.
The last couple of times I taught "Religion in America" was in 2009 at University of Michigan. The book I set on Mormonism was Richard and Joan Ostling's Mormon America. It is a fine book written by a journalist and his wife, neither LDS.
On the issue of polygamy in the church before 1890, the Ostlings note that Joseph Smith may have had between 27 and 84 wives (or thereabout). "His youngest bride, in some ways typical, was fourteen year-old Helen Mar Kimball...Her own writings...indicate...that it is possible she had not grasped before the ceremony that the marriage was to have a sexual component." (pp. 61-62)
JE comments: I presume, since he's running for President, that Gov. Romney wept tears of joy or relief.
Joseph Smith has multiple thousands of living descendants, although I've been unable to determine the actual number from a quick web search. Given the importance the LDS church gives to genealogy, I'm sure a precise number is available.
- More on Mormonism (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/31/12 4:35 PM)
A long time ago I learned that generalizations about groups of people generally do not account enough for the fact that given the circumstances, most people are basically the same. The Mormons always impressed me favorably, since I was a child growing up in Brazil. My hometown had an inseparable pair of two young men who dedicated all their time to converting the locals any way possible. They were not very effective, but I always respected their determination and perseverance.
As already mentioned by others, Mormons are very family oriented and I greatly admire that. My PhD committee chairman was a Mormon high up in the hierarchy. I consider him a great man personally and professionally. He even got me to look into his religion and contemplate conversion. I loved the results from his religion: strong families, healthy, disciplined, clean, hard-working people. Unfortunately, I just could not believe all the stories about angels, and other superstitions common to all organized religions.
- More on Mormonism (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/31/12 4:35 PM)
- LDS Ordination of African-Americans (John Recchiuti, USA 08/04/12 3:53 AM)
- More on Mormonism (David Duggan, USA 08/03/12 4:34 AM)
- More on Mormonism (Henry Levin, USA 07/31/12 7:34 AM)