Bronze-level articleMormonism

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Mormonism is a Christian sect that arose in the United States in the early nineteenth century. Mormons, who follow the religion's holy book, the Book of Mormon are generally members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), though smaller splinter churches with slightly different doctrine than the mainline LDS Church exist, such as the Community of ChristWikipedia's W.svg. The LDS, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is descended from the original congregation founded by New York-born conman turned spiritual leader Joseph Smith, Jr.. Smith took his following from New York to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois where he was assassinated. After Smith's assassination, Brigham Young took the largest group of followers to Salt Lake City.

There are roughly 15.3 million members of the LDS worldwide.[1] Both Mormonism and Bahaism have been called the "fourth Abrahamic religion", both being founded in the 19th century.[2][3] However, Mormons will generally object to the characterization, insisting that they are Christians[4].

While the LDS are an American religion, the oldest surviving branch is not in the US, but in Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom. And at nearby Chorley, the church has one of its two UK temples as well as its missionary training centre.[5] The oldest surviving Mormon chapel is also in the U.K. at Gladfield Elm, Worcestershire.

Contents

[edit] Structure

In LDS terminology a "ward" is a local congregation, and a "stake" is a regional grouping of several wards. They roughly correspond to "parish" and "diocese" in the Catholic and Anglican/Episcopal churches. A "branch" is a local congregation still in formation, which may be a few Mormons meeting in somebody's home in an area where there is no established ward to a really small ward. A "temple" is a regional building reserved for special worship services such as temple weddings, and is not open to the public, only to Mormons currently in good standing in the church. Regular Sunday services are held in a branch/church/meetinghouse/ward, not in the temple. Often, two or more wards will share the same meetinghouse. The leader of an individual congregation is called a "bishop". Bishops in the LDS church correspond to pastors or priests in other denominations, owing to a rather peculiar interpretation of the Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believersWikipedia's W.svg (about which more below). Mormon religious leaders are selected by God higher-ranking members of the church bureaucracy and presented to the congregation. The candidate is presented to the congregation, where each member of the congregation is given the opportunity to promise to aid the candidate in performing their new job, or to show their objection to it. As an added bonus, the candidate himself[6] is given no say in the process — while you are technically allowed to say 'no' when selected, it's a major faux pas and almost always more trouble than it is worth.

Men in the church are considered to be members of either the "Aaronic priesthood" or the "Melchizedek priesthood". Membership in either priesthood is not available to women. Women do not hold the priesthood, Kate Kelly campaigned to allow women's ordination and was excommunicated.[7] Boys 12 years old or older, and new Mormon converts, are admitted by the local bishop to the Aaronic priesthood as long as they are church members in good standing and follow Mormon moral codes (or at least have convinced the bishop they do, even if they secretly sneak a coffee or beer or a secret peek at Penthouse now and then). Upon adulthood (or a year or so of active church membership for new converts) they can then be admitted to the Melchizedek priesthood. Members of either priesthood have the title "priest", and members of the Melchizedek priesthood also have the title of an "elder" in the church.

This peculiar practice of investing lowly 12-year olds with the title of "deacon", 14-years old with the title of "teacher", 16-year olds with the title of "priest", 18-year olds fresh out of high school with the title of "elder" in the church, and local pastors with the title of "bishop", probably accounts for some of their success in gaining converts. After all, we are talking about the same church that teaches that if members stick with it they will eventually become a deity lording over their own planet.[8]

(Well, at least white males. Women have to settle for being members of the Relief Society, whose purpose is to assist (male) members of the priesthood. Men with black skin had to wait until 1978 before they could be admitted to either priesthood.)

The leadership of the church is in the President of the Church, who is also considered to be a "prophet, seer, and revelator" and the successor to Joseph Smith, Jr. The current president is Thomas Monson. The First Presidency consists of the President of the Church and his counselors. The President and other members of the First Presidency are chosen by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who are considered by the church to be successors to the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus. (The Mormon church, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches, practices apostolic succession).

A "dry Mormon" is slang for somebody not a baptized member of the LDS church who hangs out with Mormons and/or attends Mormon church services. Many "dry Mormons" are those checking out the church and may become fully baptized converts A "Jack Mormon" is roughly the opposite, somebody raised Mormon who has drifted away from active church membership and down the sinful path of coffee consumption, fornication, liquor, being ski bums at Utah's awesome slopes or desert rats in southern Utah canyon country, and worse, but is still (at least on paper) a member of the church.

Leaving Mormonism is hard because the local bishop, the family neighbors and friends pester that person with visits and the like do what they can to persuade the apostate to stay. A website has been set up offering legal help to former Mormons for getting removed from the role without harassment.[9]

[edit] Schisms and splinters

There are numerous spinoff groups, the most significant being the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), a liberal spinoff started by the most senior of Joseph Smith's wives and her son, Joseph Smith III, and the cultish Fundamentalist LDS church (FLDS), the largest sect still supporting polygamy. The Missouri-based Community of Christ has numerous fundamentalist spinoff sects of its own. Yet another group, the Strangites, followed James Strang to Wisconsin after Joseph Smith was murdered, Strang having claimed to find yet another "lost" book, the Book of the Law of the Lord. The Strangites were once a sizable group but fell apart after Strang was murdered by disaffected followers and most of the rest drifted back to Missouri. The fourth largest of the Mormon-related sects, after the LDS, CofC, and FLDS, is the Church of Jesus Christ based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, often called Bickertonites although they do not use that name themselves[10]. The remaining spinoff sects number in the hundreds but with few members; a small group called the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) which claims to be neither a spinoff of the Utah LDS nor the Missouri CofC owns the site in Independence, Missouri which Joseph Smith prophesized would be the location of the second coming of Christ.

These groups vary greatly from the Utah LDS church in both theology and practice. The Community of Christ for example tends toward liberal Protestantism. The Bickertonite church is more like a Holiness church with some Pentecostal influence; they practice foot washing, greeting one another with a "holy kiss", and "gifts of the Spirit" such as faith healing and speaking in tongues, and while they accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, reject many of Joseph Smith's later teachings. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) has been described[11] as embodying the practices of the earliest Joseph Smith followers in New York with a fairly conventional Protestant theology, and likewise reject many of his later teachings. A small following of Strangites remain and essentially follow the theology of the Mormons during their late Nauvoo, Illinois period with the addition of giving scriptural status to Strang's Book of the Law of the Lord. The FLDS have been the most controversial and usually considered a cult, with such practices as members holding no property of their own with all property held in common by the church, arranged marriages of underage girls to older men in the church, and expelling young men from the church ostensibly for various sins (in reality because they are seen as competition with older men for marriage to multiple wives, and in an isolated polygamist community there just aren't enough women to go around.) Some even stranger groups professing belief in the Book of Mormon exist, such as the Arizona-based Peyote Way Church of God, for which the Book of Mormon is scripture and peyote a sacrament. The Church of Israel, a splinter group from the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), is sometimes cited as one of the origins of Christian Identity.

The Utah LDS church considers all these other groups to be apostate. They probably each think the same of the LDS as well as each other.

[edit] Theology

Though a Christian sect (although there are too many Christians who consider them heretics),[12] they differ scripturally from most other Christians, claiming that the Book of Mormon was originally written by followers of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus who lived in the Americas around the time of Jesus' life and death. Mormon is supposedly the name of the prophet who originally compiled the text. Mormons believe these people split into two tribes, Nephites and Lamanites, that the Nephites, after many fluctuations, ultimately remained true to God but were eventually killed off by the Lamanites. The Lamanites, who ultimately turned far from God (who darkened their skins to punish them for doing so), ironically survived and are believed to be the progenitors of some of the American Indians.[13] There is no substantial archeological evidence supporting this claim. Much of the Book of Mormon is stories of fighting between the Nephites and Lamanites and how either side would cyclically turn to God, become prosperous, and fall because of pride. Except for the last time, of course.

The Mormons have a very strong connection with the American West, as they migrated in the mid-1800s to what is now Utah, to avoid religious persecution. The Mormons basically founded the state and its largest city — Salt Lake City — and consequently Utah and the city are the world headquarters for the LDS religion, and Utah has the highest concentration of Mormons in the world, along with the highest concentration of poor conservatives and Prozac consumers (although it should be said that the Mormons hotly deny it has anything to do with them).

Good Mormons do not drink coffee or tea, because Joseph Smith, Jr. had a revelation from God that "hot drinks" are bad. This restriction has since been culturally extended to all caffeine including sodas and tablets, and has been increased in seriousness from a suggestion for health reasons to a commandment, the following (or lying about) of which is required to enter their temples. This led to the adoption of Postum (brand name) soon after its invention, a commercial powdered beverage made from ground up burnt something (wheat) mixed with hot water, and called "Mormon Coffee". Hot cocoa is also popular at winter activites. (Both of these are hot beverages, but somehow are acceptable by most Mormons, despite the Word of Wisdom -- Mormon leaders have retconned the commandment to refer specifically to coffee and tea.) Caffeinated cold beverages are not disallowed by the Church itself;[14] there is a popular (but false) urban legend that this is because the LDS owns a sizable portion of the Coca-Cola company.[15] This restriction is in addition to the common fundamentalist religions' prohibitions against smoking and drinking. Good Mormons also tithe, which they have to keep up to maintain their "temple recommend".[16]

Mormons in good standing attend an "endowment ceremony" in the temple in which they are taught the secret passwords they will need to tell the angels to enter Heaven. During this ceremony they are given their temple garments, a set of underwear they are expected to wear at all times from then on as a token of the covenants they made. The endowment ceremony has been the source of conspiracy theories by anti-Mormon fundamentalist Christians that the ceremony is secretly Satanic or Masonic in nature, while the underwear is a common source of lulz for those poking fun at Mormonism (and for the really twisted, yes, Rule 34 applies.)

Perhaps the greatest claim to fame by the Mormons, at least as far as the general public is concerned, is their acknowledged acceptance of polygamy during the early years of the church. "Officially" they renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah being granted statehood, but while the church generally stopped performing polygamous marriages at that time, existing polygamous marriages were not dissolved, and the church continued to tolerate the practice for several more decades. Polygamy is still practiced among some Mormon splinter groups in Utah, Arizona, Texas and parts of Canada. However, those practicing polygamy in the LDS church today may become subject to church discipline, disfellowship, and excommunication.

On the other hand, that 74-time Jeopardy! championWikipedia's W.svg is a Mormon (and also a Democrat).

[edit] Differences from Christian orthodoxy

Besides the obvious—embracing the Book of Mormon as inspired scripture—Mormon theology differs from other Christians on several points. Indeed some Christians insist Mormonism is not Christian at all. [17] For the Utah LDS church:

  • Mormons believe in a form of polytheism monolatrism in which God the Father is but one of many gods. They do not worship nor recognize these other gods in any devotional sense, and view only the one God as their Heavenly Father. These other gods are gods of other universes, and God the Father is the god of ours.
  • In Mormon theology God the Father is busy (in his home near the star Kolob) producing spirit children whom he then sends to earth to become human newborns. Humans are thus begotten, not merely created, children of the Heavenly Father.
  • Jesus is the first of God the Father's begotten spirit offspring and was a co-creator of Earth. He is seen as both the "Son of God" as well as an eldest brother to humankind. The phrase "only begotten son" is used, sometimes in the longer form "only begotten son in the flesh," making a distinction with the spiritual begetting that is common to all.
  • Satan is also a spiritually begotten offspring of God the Father, who fell due to sin. Evangelical Christians use this as one of their main criticisms of Mormonism, that this means Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers.
  • Humans are given free agency, or free will to either choose or reject God's plan for their lives. God sending his spirit children to earth in human bodies is a kind of test period he puts us through to find out which of us will freely choose his ways. "CTR"—Choose The Right—refers to this free agency and is the Mormon answer to WWJD. This belief should be understood in the light of a strong emphasis on obedience to God, and to church authorities as his earthly representatives. In the extreme this leads to a fire-and-forget conception of free will, in which its proper purpose is to be exercised at one point in time to choose to obey from then on, with a rather diminished role thereafter. This extreme form is not doctrinal, but statements from church leaders sometimes approach it.
  • Mormons believe in three levels of heaven.
  1. The Celestial Kingdom is the highest level and is where faithful Mormons who marry in the church go.
  2. Good members of other religions who acknowledge God but are not part of the Mormon church, and Mormons who do not follow all the church ordinances, go to the Terrestrial Kingdom.
  3. The Telestial Kingdom is the lowest level of heaven, where unrepentant sinners go. Interestingly enough, although this is the lowest kingdom and may be considered hell by comparison to the Celestial Kingdom, church members often say that if one were to view a glimpse of this kingdom, it would be so desirous as to drive a person to suicide to get there faster.
The Mormon conception of hell is "outer darkness" rather than a literal burning hell; it's really described as much the opposite of what its name implies, being very cold. The eternal torture there is not so much the physical pain of burning flesh as much as it is the psychological and emotional torture of being inescapably devoid of the love of God or mercy of Christ. Extremely few if any people who have ever gained mortal bodies will go there because it is reserved for Satan and his angels and any others who have committed the sin of denying the Holy Spirit, which is said to be as hard as looking at the Sun and denying its existence. Again, nearly all unrepentant sinners will go to the Telestial Kingdom.
This leads to an interesting inversion of Pascal's wager. If, according to Mormon theology, you became a sincere Mormon who "in mortality" knew "the power of God" and later "denied the truth and defied God’s power" (i.e., wised up), you would be a "son of perdition" and cast into the outer darkness upon death. On the other hand, if you ignore the annoying missionaries and never join the Mormons you go to the so-so afterlife. This may not be a risk worth taking.[18]
  • The early Christian church fell into apostasy and only the Mormon faith has restored the true church. Other churches are seen as having a portion of God's light and truth, but lacking the fullness or completeness of truth it is believed the Mormon faith has. (And they wonder why other Christians don't like them...)
  • The Bible is seen as an imperfect record of God which became corrupted through mistranslation or deliberate alterations, while the Book of Mormon is seen as a complete record restoring things missing from the Bible. If any of this sounds familiar, it's because it's been done before.
  • Mormon and other LDS denominations believe in "continuous revelation", in which the prophets of each church can declare their reception of a "revelation" from God, which is then approved by the church leadership and entered into the "Doctrines and Covenants" book. This ever-expanding book is upheld as "open scriptural canon" alongside the Christian Bible and the Book of Mormon, distinguishing Mormonism from other Abrahamic religions' almost-exclusive reliance upon interpretation of the Torah, Christian Bible or Qu'ran. (It's also the means by which church members of the LDS Church were notified after 1978 that people of African descent were no longer banned from the priesthood.)
  • The Mormon church teaches that God the Father was once a man himself and became a god, and likewise, humans who follow his plan completely and go to the Celestial Kingdom can eventually become gods too.
  • Mormons believe in baptism of the dead by proxy, that is to say that living Mormons can be baptized in place of deceased non-Mormon relatives which will extend the possibility of their being able to choose the Mormon faith or not after death so that they may have a chance to enjoy the covenants they could have made with mortal bodies on earth. There is a widespread misconception among church members that "sealings" seal entire families together for eternity as if to create a hillbilly mansion in heaven. In reality only couples are really sealed together to eventually co-rule as gods and goddesses over their own dominions. The issue of people not getting married in this life is often said to be resolved during the Millennium. This practice has gotten the Mormon church into hot water more than once when it was discovered they had baptized some Jewish Holocaust victims by proxy. It has also provoked complaints from Catholics, who object to another church baptizing their dead. [19] It is also the source of the intense Mormon interest in genealogy; the local Mormon church is often a good resource used by non-Mormons tracing their ancestry because they have extensive genealogy records.
  • The Mormon church throughout its history has maintained a practice of storing food and other goods for their members for charity and times of emergency, and encourages all members to store a year's supply of food for their families. Some Mormons take this further and get into survivalism. The policy is referred to as "Provident Living" in official Church publications. At one point the minimum was to store 7 years' worth of food reserves. [20]
  • Mormons believe the second coming of Christ is imminent due to the one true faith™ having been restored (actually, the third coming—they believe Christ already came back to earth a second time to minister to and teach the ancestors of the Native Americans immediately following his crucifixion). They do not believe there will be a rapture. Joseph Smith prophesied the return of Christ would be in present-day Independence, Missouri, and also taught the Garden of Eden was located near Independence. The church teaches its members that we are living in the 'Last Days' and that the current generation may well be the final generation of humanity, and has taught that for over a century (and several 'final generations') now.
  • Many Mormons feel they believe in God because they find it more likely that God exists than that Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon without divine inspiration. This is no joke. Any serious argument with a Mormon will eventually involve them asking how the Book of Mormon could be written without divine intervention. They will follow up by denigrating Joseph Smith to the point of calling him an uneducated idiot—to further their point. [21] The presence of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon does raise interesting questions however.
  • According to the LDS scripture the Book of Abraham every person in heaven gets their own planet, God lives on planet Kolob. Recently the church denies that the Book of Abraham is meant to be taken literally. [22]
  • According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus visited the American continent after his resurrection.

Many of these theological points come from Joseph Smith's later revelations, and are rejected by some of the splinter groups who accept only the Book of Mormon and Smith's earlier teachings which have a more conventional Christian theology and a monotheistic, trinitarian view of God.

[edit] Relationships with other denominations

Broadly speaking, older and more widely known Christian sects look down on Mormons. This othering may be due in part to the unorthodox theology and metaphysics its members hold, but what is puzzling is a tendency by opponents to refer to themselves as "Christians" (rather than Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics or whatever denomination they are part of) against the Mormon - despite the fact that Mormon theology sees Jesus Christ as the son of God. However, this othering usually stops just as long as the Mormons are fighting against atheists, or, surprise surprise, helping to stop progress of gay rights.

Mormonism's concept of the Godhead[23] is sometimes used to say that Mormons are not Christian because they aren't monotheistic in "the doctrine or belief that there is only one God" definition of the word.[24] Mormonism's own teachings about Godhead are as confusing as the teachings regarding the Trinity.[25]

[edit] Social mores

Good Mormons have more mores; bad Mormons have less mores.

[edit] Missionary work

Mormons are expected to spend two years of their young adulthood in the mission field, at mostly their own and their families' expense. The fairly low retention rate for members born in the Church (it's estimated that as many as half the children born to members grow up to leave the Church, and the actual number may be far higher) means that missionary work is considered extremely important by the Church authorities, as a steady stream of converts is the only way for the Church to maintain its size. The LDS church picks where they go and missionaries are expected to live an austere lifestyle during those two years, refraining from TV, sports, or reading books other than the Book of Mormon and selected books on Mormon theology. Being an "RM" (returned missionary) is a mark of especially good standing in the church, while failure of a young adult to go on a mission is generally a sign they have "backslidden" and headed for "Jack Mormon" status. (A "Jack Mormon" is similar to a lapsed Catholic, or a non-practicing Jew.)

The LDS church has had some success in converting people in Latin American countries. Missionaries start out with a decided disadvantage in countries such as Japan, where if they are so fortunate as to be invited into someone's home, they are immediately offered some green tea (which they must refuse, making the worst possible impression right off the bat).

Many of their visits come as a result of people calling the LDS church or visiting their website to request free Bibles and Books of Mormon. Mormon missionaries will show up at your door in pairs, dressed in identical suits looking like Amway salesmen, and say the opposite of this. They give out free Books of Mormon like candy and want you to read it. If you show interest, they will have a series of followup visits where they give filmstrip or flip-chart presentations[26], and will invite you to attend church on Sundays. The flip-chart presentations are a sanitized version of Mormon theology that leaves out the most ridiculous parts of their theology;[27] for example they won't mention that God lives near the star Kolob with his multiple spirit wives having celestial sex to breed spirit children, who then inhabit human bodies. Nor will they mention their now-abandoned beliefs regarding polygamy or Blacks. If asked about one of these beliefs they are well-trained in either spinning the subject favourably or moving on to something else altogether. One of their big hooks is to ask you to pray over the Book of Mormon after reading some of it. You are supposed to have a subjective "burning in the bosom" feeling to prove the Book of Mormon is true. I don't know about you but if I had just read that book I'd be like to suffer from indigestion too...not to mention insanity... I dunno. Pop a Zantac and Ativan (or three) and get over it, I guess.

[edit] Charity

See the main article on this topic: Charity

One of the teachings of Mormonism is that it's good to be charitable to all people.

Interestingly the church is the largest individual sponsor of the Boy Scouts of America.Wikipedia's W.svg

The LDS Church is also globally involved in humanitarian work. It has donated millions to hurricane, flood, mudslide, earthquake, tsunami, and other natural disaster relief aid.

The Mormon church has a built-in welfare program. The program is designed to give short-term aid to practicing Mormons. This aid is given under the discretion of the bishop of a ward (parish). Aid is usually given out in the form of monthly rations of groceries, and many a low-income Mormon family will have a pantry filled entirely with church-branded food given to them from the Bishop's Storehouse. This system is one of the few remaining holdovers from the extremely early days of the church, when church members held all property in common, basic needs were provided for equally, and additional resources were allocated by a centralized distribution authority on an as-needed basis.

It was estimated in 2012 that the LDS Church takes in $7 billion per year in tithing, mostly from US Mormons. It was estimated to own $35 billion in non-investment (church) real estate holdings. It has a policy of decreasing transparency and membership control as far as where the money goes: temples, investments (farms, ranches, shopping malls), missions, or charity.[28]

[edit] Fraud

According to Ned Hill[29] Mormons often fall prey to financial scams as they try to take the fast route to charitable donations.[30] In a recent case reminiscent of the Nigerian 419 scam, many Mormons (and other evangelical Christians) lost their life's savings in a ruse to allegedly broker the sale of 20,000 tons of gold owned by a group of Israelis to Arab buyers.[30]

Mormons seem to be an exceptionally credulous bunch, probably because of all the hooie they are required to swallow to be members in good standing. Mormons love to lose money on multilevel marketing (MLM) schemes, known as "Mormons Losing Money" in Utah.[31] One ex-Mormon speculates that the Mormon hierarchy wants to keep the unwashed masses of Mormons poor through tithing and MLMs, and hence dependent on Mormon charity.[32]

[edit] Marriage

The LDS church puts a large premium on marriage within the church, and having large families. Single Mormon young adults and converts are under pressure to marry somebody in the church, and areas with larger Mormon congregations will have a special "singles ward" for single members to attend so you can meet that special someone. Marrying outside the church bars you from the most sacred of Mormon ceremonies, the Temple Marriage, which is done inside the Mormon temple, although this often becomes another source of new Mormon converts as the non-member is pressured to convert to Mormonism so they can be married in the temple. Non-Mormon family members are also barred from attending the Temple Marriage ceremony, so often Mormon couples will hold two wedding ceremonies, one in the temple and a separate one which non-Mormon family and friends can attend. According to Mormon theology, being married in the temple opens one up to the highest levels of heaven when you die. Mormons believe that all people who have ever lived will have baptism and temple marriage opportunities available to them through "temple work," which includes baptisms and marriage rites being performed by temple attendees on behalf of the dead. The belief is that the dead who did not have the opportunity during life of receiving these "ordinances" can choose whether to accept them as personally binding. [33] Mormons also believe that those who reject Mormonism's teachings during life and after life, but who are honorable people, will go to the second-highest degree of heaven called the "Terrestrial Kingdom." The dishonorable unbelievers are believed to go to the "Telestial Kingdom," which is the third and lowest degree, excluding "outer darkness."

Polygamy was allowed at the time of Joseph Smith (Smith himself had several wives, some of whom were as young as 14). The second 'prophet' of the church, Brigham Young, had dozens of wives and married and impregnated children as young as 15; other high-ranking church leaders at the time are on record as having wives as young as 13, and several of them married multiple girls on the same day. There are rumors that this still happens in Mormonism's splinter groups practicing polygamy today. [34] [35]

[edit] Mormon cinema

In recent years, a genre of independent films made in Utah intended for Mormon audiences has developed. Seemingly this is partly to fill a Mormon desire for clean entertainment — video stores in Utah have drawn criticism in the past for renting popular movies modified, without the filmmakers' permission, to remove sex, violence, and vulgar language. The new genre of Mormon cinema is very much unlike evangelistic Protestant films like Left Behind whose main point is evangelism. They are strictly entertainment, annoyingly (or refreshingly, depending on your perspective) saccharine, "clean" comedies like The R.M. and The Singles Ward whose humor derives from in-group references to Utah and Mormon culture. This latter fact effectively limits their appeal; someone looking for "clean" alternatives to popular movies, but not familiar with Mormon culture, is not going to get most of the jokes. The effect is gently poking fun at the excesses of Mormon culture while ultimately reaffirming the church and its values. The genre also extends to murder mysteries, historical drama, animation, documentaries, and dramatisation of Book of Mormon stories, and has grown so large there are now LDS film festivals, the nickname Mollywood, and — spawning its own splinter decidedly not endorsed by the LDS Church, a small movement devoted to independent gay Mormon cinema. Jack Mormons might enjoy the 1997 comedy Orgazmo, in which a Mormon missionary is induced to become a porn star.[36]

[edit] Groups Mormons hate and/or don't mention

There's a lot of 'em.

[edit] Women

Orson Scott Card (himself a Mormon) says: "...women are virtually absent from the Book of Mormon. When they do manage to show up, they are rarely named. There are only three women who are actually of the culture of the Book of Mormon who are given names. One is Sariah, the mother of Nephi. Another is a harlot named Isabel, and the third is a servant woman named Abish. None of the queens who show up in the story are mentioned by name. None of these writers ever mentions his own wife, and when women do show up in a specific role they're still almost never named. Nephi did not even bother to mention the name of the woman who saved his life by pleading for him in the desert."[37] This would certainly seem consistent with the Hebrew tradition the text is allegedy translated from.

Women do not hold the priesthood, one woman was excommunicated for campaigning to allow women's ordination. [38] Women take part in the Mormon's Church's Relief Society organization, which is one of the largest and oldest women's organizations in the world. Mormons often claim that it is THE oldest and largest. [39]

[edit] Children and the mentally disabled

In Mormonism, children under 8 and the mentally disabled are believed incapable of committing sin—which gives you a whole new perspective reading Ender's Game. [40]

[edit] Homosexuals

The church takes a negative stance on homosexuality claiming, like most other Christian denominations, that it is a sin. Tolerance is taught in the church following the maxim "love the sinner, despise the sin." The church gave significant support to California Proposition 8, an attempt to amend the California state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. This support attracted criticism, and the church was fined for not accurately reporting its contributions to the campaign to pass the amendment.[41] Not all Mormons are homophobic bigots just because they oppose gay marriage. Homophobia, by strict definition, appears to be in the minority and is contrary to both scripture and church teachings. There is a tiny number of openly gay Mormons; they are generally tolerated so long as they pledge to remain entirely celibate as far as homosexual relations are concerned and agree to lead an essentially monastic existence if they choose not to pursue a heterosexual relationship that could be within the temple covenant. Young gay Mormons are often treated as sinful or as an abomination even by their own families. Many are thrown out of their homes. Suicide among young Mormons is increasing especially since the Church increased condemnation of gays. There are adult Mormons who oppose homophobia and who try to protect and counsel vulnerable young gays. [42]

[edit] Nonwhites

Nowadays, the Church says that it "embraces the universal human family", without regards to race.[43] It certainly wasn't that way in the past (and in the present, for all too many practicing Mormons).

Mormons also thought black people were ineligible for the "priesthood" (which in Mormon theology is all male believers in good standing) until recently — 1978 to be precise. (It seems that in 1978 God decreed that BYU might wish to bring in some black athletes if they ever wanted to schedule another football game again.) Hmmm... apparently they realized they were missing out on a much larger pool of potential converts for their missionaries, which they send around the world.

Back in the day, the church was relatively open about their views on blacks:

Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species.
—Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. [44]
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. The nations of the earth have transgressed every law that God has given, they have changed the ordinances and broken every covenant made with the fathers, and they are like a hungry man that dreameth that he eateth, and he awaketh and behold he is empty.
—Prophet Brigham Young[45]

All this is somewhat sad -- as Joseph Smith himself professed some abolitionist beliefs.[46] Brigham Young was the predominant driving force against African Americans in the church's early history.

[edit] Some famous Mormons

  • John Browning, father of the modern machine gun action mechanism. One day while shooting in the Utah countryside, he noticed that the grass would move when the bullet passed by from unused energy. This evolved into a piston firing mechanism, which would take the unused energy, and transfer it to a piston that would revolve and fire the next bullet. One of his most notable inventions was the .50 cal Browning M2, a machine gun adopted by the US army which is still used today as an important combat weapon. Other notable contributions to the world of firearms design include the widely popular M1911, the first lever-action, pump-action, semi-automatic, and superposed shotguns, the Browning Hi-Power pistol, and numerous designs for handguns and machine guns.
  • Jack Anderson, reporter famous for his muckraking on Watergate, Iran-Contra, J. Edgar Hoover, Liberty Lobby, ad nauseum. First-class busybody (nothing like us, of course).
  • Glenn Beck, media agitator (joined for the cook-outs).
  • Arthur Gary Bishop, convicted child molester and serial killer
  • Don Bluth, producer of animated movies[47][48]
  • Orson Scott Card, science fiction author who wrote "Ender's Game", a novel that owes so very very much to Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers. (Heinlein was definitely not a Mormon, as his novella Revolt in 2100 makes clear.)
  • Brandon Sanderson, fantasy author who wrote "Elantris", "Mistborn" series, and the final installments of the late Robert Jordan's series "The Wheel of Time".
  • Butch Cassidy, bank robber
  • Eldridge Cleaver, a former leader in the Black Panther Party
  • Stephen Covey, author of self help books
  • Philo T. Farnsworth (1906-1971), inventor of the cathode ray tube (CRT). While plowing his father's fields as a boy, he theorized that images could be broken down and reassembled as a series of scanned lines. This would also qualify him as the father of xerography, digital imaging, fax machines (unlikely, as the first commercial fax service was launched in 1865[49]) and computer printers.
  • Glen A. Larson, creator of the original version of Battlestar Galactica, which was really a sci-fi version of several Mormon myths. Until the Battlestars (barring—obviously—the eponymous Galactica) are blown up, the refugees are led by a President ("La-la-la, I'm not listening, Commander Adama! The Cylons are peaceful! They really are!") and the Quorum of The Twelve. After the ambush, they go in search of the lost 13th tribe, invoking prayers to the Lords of Kobol. The colonists seemingly couldn't keep straight whether they were polytheists or monotheists, though—the script would often slip up and have a character pray to God in the singular. In the 2nd episode, Apollo gets "sealed" to Serena, and they visit some obviously Egyptian pyramids. (The viper pilots' helmets are likewise modelled on pharaohnic headdresses.) That said, Larson himself has been quoted as saying that the series was based on the Biblical book of Exodus and many viewers considered it nothing more than a sci-fi version of the old Western series Wagon Train (in which Clint Eastwood gained his big break as Rowdy Yates). Seemingly in response to this, Larson made the biblical references so overblown as to be unintentionally funny. Ultimately, however, this is all academic. Whatever the basis, the series was rubbish... Luckily, the Reimagined series redeems it and managed to keep the overly religious aspects for the last season nobody watched; you still need to get past all the toaster sex however.
  • Evan Mecham, former governor of Arizona and racist crank
  • Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight book series
  • The Osmonds, the Mormon answer to the Jackson Five. Younger generations may know Donny Osmond as the guy who sang that one catchy-ass war song in Mulan.
  • Anne Perry (neé: Juliet Marioin Hulme), mystery novelist and adult LDS convert who, at the age of 15, helped her friend murder her friend's mother. (Kate Winslet portrayed Perry in the 1994 movie Heavenly Creatures.)
  • Harry Reid, U.S. Senate Democratic majority leader (2007 - 2015)
  • Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and 2008/2012 Republican presidential candidate
  • W. Cleon Skousen, author, BYU professor, and conspiracy theorist
  • Mo Udall, former Arizona congressman and presidential candidate
  • William B. Ide[1], President of the Califorina Republic (June 17 - July 9, 1846)
  • Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations
  • Tom Udall, U.S. Senator from New Mexico
  • Ken Jennings, that 74-time Jeopardy! champion
  • Mick Ronson, best known for miming oral sex on David Bowie.
  • Steve Young, Super Bowl Champion Quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, and descendent of Brigham Young
  • Jon Heder, star of Napoleon Dynamite (in fact, many Mormons were involved with that film)
  • Wilford "Diabeetus" Brimley
  • Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon, of the band Imagine Dragons
  • Husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of the celebrated indie band Low.

[edit] External links

[edit] Wikis

At least five wikis are devoted to Mormonism.

  • The FAIR Wiki: Run by a Mormon apologetics group. Editing appears to be closed to the general public and articles have a pro-Mormonism POV
  • MormonWiki.com: Describes itself as a "free encyclopedia about Mormons from the perspective of faithful members," but editing is open to the public. Articles tend to have a pro-Mormonism POV. Dead.
  • MormonWiki.org: Not to be confused with MormonWiki.com. This one has an anti-Mormonism POV, albeit from an evangelical Christian perspective. Dead.
  • MormonWikia: Yet another wiki with a proclaimed pro-Mormon POV. "This is not a place for criticism of any nature." Dead.
  • The Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Covers the "History, Scripture, Doctrine, and Procedure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." There appear to be many articles, but the wiki's Recent Changes page is empty. Given there is no "create account" tab, one assumes the site is read-only. Dead.

[edit] References

  1. Mormons at a glance
  2. Do You Need God?: Exploring Different Paths to Spirituality Even for Atheists, Rory J. Q. Barnes, 2014
  3. Essential Essentialism, 2011, Z Schertz
  4. And Bahai will insist that they are not a "new" religion, but a combination of all religions. And Muslims will insist that their version is restoration of the original, uncorrupted religion. And Christians will insist that they are still Jews, just that Jews are wrong to not accept the revelations. Really, everyone is always the original.
  5. BBC report
  6. All positions of authority in the church are held by men.
  7. Push to ordain Mormon women leads to excommunication
  8. "As for their labor and pursuits in eternity… We shall go on from one step to another, reaching forth into the eternities until we become like the Gods, and shall be able to frame for ourselves, by the behest and command of the Almighty. All those who are counted worthy to be exalted and to become Gods, even the sons of God, will go forth and have earths and worlds like those who framed this and millions on millions of others…"Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:143
  9. This Website Will Help You Officially Resign from the Mormon Church
  10. Odd trivia: Alice Cooper grew up in the Bickertonite church
  11. Mormon America by Richard & Joan Ostling, HarperCollins, 1999
  12. Usually the same sort of Catholic who views Protestants as heretics, and vice versa.
  13. Hardly a compelling theological argument, as the apparent lesson to be learned is that turning away from God keeps one from dying out.
  14. http://web.archive.org/web/20021026175515/http://templehill.com/soda_caffeine.html
  15. http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/mormon.asp
  16. The "temple recommend" is a document issued by the believer's local church certifying said believer's worthiness to enter an LDS temple. Not all LDS Mormons carry them, for various reasons, though it is highly advised that church members obtain and keep them in good standing for the various ceremonies done in the temple, including temple weddings. One of the other things that Mormons don't do is drink alcoholic beverages, as the Word of Wisdom refers to "avoid strong spirits," but for some reason it's okay to drink "beverages made from hops." How Mormons explain that beer is not good to drink, is uncertain, but they say that hops beverages refers to hops tea?
  17. Is Mormonism Christian?Is Mormonism Christian?
  18. Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual Chapter 33: Kingdoms of Glory and Perdition
  19. Catholics told not to give LDS parish data
  20. "Food Storage". Mormon Wiki. http://www.mormonwiki.com/Food_Storage. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  21. Source: non-mormon who grew up reading LDS literature and arguing frequently with Mormons in South Jordan, Utah. Until recently South Jordan was the only city in the world with multiple LDS temples (now I think Draper, UT has two as well).
  22. http://www.thewire.com/culture/2014/02/mormons-dont-get-planet-once-they-die-say-mormons/358669/
  23. Robert L. Millet; Noel B. Reynolds Do Latter-day Saints believe that men and women can become gods?
  24. Excerpt from The Secret World of Mormonism
  25. "Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that human beings can grow and progress spiritually until, through the mercy and grace of Christ, they can inherit and possess all that the Father has—they can become gods." Furthermore, "Even though Mormons believe in the ultimate deification of man, nothing in LDS literature speaks of worshipping any being other than the Father and the Son. Latter-day Saints believe in “one God” in the sense that they love and serve one Godhead, each member of which possesses all of the attributes of godhood."
  26. If you're in the mood for being a stubbon prick that likes to ask awkward questions and watch people squirm, this can be a very amusing way of passing the time.
  27. This is referred to within the church as milk before meat.
  28. NBC News: Mormon church earns $7 billion a year from tithing, analysis indicates
  29. A professor of business management and a former dean of the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Bloomberg: Mormons Become Victims in $50 Million Scam to Sell Gold Bullion
  31. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/04/mitt-romney-nu-skin-multilevel-marketing-schemes Get-Rich-Quick Profiteers Love Mitt Romney, and He Loves Them Back
  32. http://notamormon.blogspot.com/2006/08/why-do-so-many-mormons-enter-mlm.html Why Do so many Mormons enter MLM schemes?
  33. http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/temples/Temple_Worship_EOM.htm
  34. http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon216.htm
  35. http://www.lds-mormon.com/mormon_polygamy.shtml
  36. [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0124819/ Orgazmo: Naive young Mormon Joe Young is recruited to act in porn movies.
  37. http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-bookofmormon.html
  38. Push to ordain Mormon women leads to excommunication
  39. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relief_Society
  40. http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/EoM/id/5446
  41. Mormon Church to be fined by state political commission over Proposition 8
  42. Meet the “Mama Dragons”: Mormon Moms Protecting Their LGBT Kids From Within The Church
  43. https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood
  44. History of the Church, v. 5, pp. 21-218, January 2, 1845.
  45. Journal of Discourses, v. 10, p. 110
  46. http://www.mtgriffith.com/web_documents/earlyldsviews.htm
  47. Not only is he a Mormon, he's Mitt Romney's cousin.
  48. http://www.wargs.com/political/romney.html
  49. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fax
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