THE MORMON CURTAIN
Containing 5,709 Articles Spanning 365 Topics
Ex-Mormon News, Stories And Recovery
Archives From 2005 thru 2014
If you have reached this page from an outside source such as an
Internet Search or forum referral, please note that this page
(the one you just landed on)
is an archive containing articles on
"BOOKS - COMMENTS AND REVIEWS - SECTION 1".
The Mormon Curtain
- is a website that blogs the Ex-Mormon world. You can
The Mormon Curtain FAQ
to understand the purpose of this website.
CLICK HERE to visit the main page of The Mormon Curtain.
BOOKS - COMMENTS AND REVIEWS - SECTION 1
Reviews of books and recommendations from readers.
| There's a new book out titled 1491 by Charles C. Mann which discusses native populations in the Americas before Columbus happened upon this continent.
I haven't started reading it yet, but here's a great quote from the dust jacket:
Take that LGT!
- Certain cities - such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital - were far greater in population than any contemporary European city. Furthermore, Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and immaculately clean streets.
- The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids."
If you have a look at the link to the book on Amazon's website it has a very interesting timeline listing comparative European/Asian and American advances. Unfortunately for LGT'ers the first 3 dates listed for the Americas side happened BEFORE 600 B.C.
This should be a good read...
| For those of you who have not read "y His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri," you must do so. I had been aware that the papyri existed and that there was a document purporting to 'translate' one of them character by character which wasn't correct. That's bad enough. But it is amazing, once you read this book, how much *more* incredibly overwhelming the case against the Book of Abraham really is. It's really mind-boggling.
One of the reasons it's so devastating is that so much of it is picture-based: pictures, pictures, pictures. You don't need to trust experts quite as much. You just look at it and judge for yourself. Even the online version of the book doesn't quite do this justice.
No, I'm not the book's official promoter. :-)
| Heinerman, John, and Anson Shupe (1985). The Mormon Corporate Empire. Boston : Beacon Press, c1985. xiv, 293 p. ; 24 cm, ISBN: 0807004065.
I read this book on my mission and it was definitely an eye-opener. As best I can remember the authors spent years calculating the LDS Church's financial holdings, tithing income, and net worth. The picture was/is truly shocking. If I remember correctly, their estimate for tithing income was approx. 5 Billion dollars a year, which would translate today into somewhere between 12-15 Billion dollars a year based on chur ch growth and inflation.
I believe that Shupe published another book in 1992 with the same theme. Did anyone else read this book? What are your thoughts?
| Out of the Shadows : A rape victim examines her life in and out of Mormonism by Pamela McCreary.
Heads up to all foyerites, this is an outstanding read. This is more what I expected Martha Beck's book to be like. Here is my review of the book that I did for amazon.com:
Mormonism permeates just about every aspect of a believer's life. Pam McCreary does an excellent job of relating, in a gripping and well written manner, what it is like to grow up in the Mormon church. She exposes the not so well hidden sexism that infects the church at all levels. And she describes how Mormonism requires its followers to sacrifice their individuality and uniqueness on its altar of obedience and conformity. She also poignantly tells how discovering the truth about the Mormon church fundamentally altered her life and forever changed her relationship with her parents, her spouse, and her friends.
As a former Mormon, I found that much of Pam McCreary's life mirrored my own and that she has successfully battled many of the same demons that I have. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is or has struggled with being Mormon or anyone who has a spouse, close friend or relative un
| Reading Charles M. Larson's book once again, I came upon the following in Chapter 9 (fifth paragraph):
"While some Egyptian words need no determinative, many have more than one; some words even require as many as three determinatives to express a single thought. Egyptian writing was thus cumbersome to use, and lacked any true depth of abstraction. That it was able to survive for more than three millennia was due more to its use within a stagnant society, than to any special merit of its own. Eventually its vast inferiority to other forms of writing, such as Greek or Hebrew, led to its disuse and ultimate disappearance."
Hmm, this sure sheds a whole lot of light on the reasons why Nephi and his family chose to revise their Hebrew language by adding Egyptian elements to make writing on the gold plates easier. Obviously they preferred writing in cumbersome languages with no depth of abstraction. Maybe they should have followed Brother Brigham's example and just made up an entirely new alphabet from scratch.
| Has anyone else read this book? I am floored. I am no brain expert. I am excited to see things so clearly now that I understand the mechanics better. I am on chapter 5 that explains the function of Ritual in religion or nationalism.
Newberg, D'Aquili and Rause methodically tear down the walls of the previously held mysteries within our skulls. Many preconceived notions fade away as they explain the compartments of the brain and lay out what goes on in the skull during any Ritual.
...every ritual turns a meaningful idea into a visceral experience. The ideas that animate religious ritual are rooted in ... myth.
"... scriptures provide a powerful basis for faith and an effective buffer against existential fears. But these assurances are, ultimately, only ideas, and even in their most potent state, can only be believed in the mind... The neurobiology of ritual, however, turns these ideas into felt experiences, into mind-body, sensory, and cognitive events that "prove" their reality.
"By giving us a visceral taste of God's presence, rituals provide us with satisfying proof that the scriptural assurances are real."
Then the explanation goes on to dole out plentiful information about the how the watch-dog brain function of the amygdala picks up on odd, out of the norm, behaviors found in rituals, becomes stimulated, and thus creates an arousal response.
This is hardwired biology stemming from our ancient need to be aware of danger in our surroundings. Flight or fight!
I am giddy. There is a certain elation that comes with the realization of how there is a rational reason as to why so many religions exist.
No culture has existed ever, that humans have studied, that does not also have myths to explain the unexplainable existential questions. (I am also in the middle of Campbell's The Power of Myth PBS series). These myths have always generated rituals. Why do they generate rituals? Because rituals generate a palpable feeling of collecive "we are on to something here" -ness. Rituals are the soothing balm. Rituals are our opiate to keepp us from running amuck in the streets in terror? I don't know how else to say it?
It makes perfect sense.
Now, with that, the fundies will clamor
"Yes, that is right! God is amazing how he designed us! He created us this way so he could tap into our neurobiological make up to communicate with us!"
To which I would respond that by that reason alone we can be done with dogmatic rules and regulations found in One and Only True churches. If a god is stimulating human brain amygdalas, hypothalamuses to placate our existential fears, then that certainly cannot make for proof that one religion is true over another. Rituals from prostrating ones body in Islam to Buddhist meditations, to the Catholic Eucharist to the mormon temple, to simple bowing of ones head in prayer to the common shaking of another's hand all generate a tangible human response.
This book shines a bright light on the human capacity to create our own calming "opiate" in dealing with our human condition. In religion, in patriotism, in common social greetings, in politics, in sexual mating attempts... to name a few.
This created response does not mean there is a god. The book, thus far, clearly highlights that. In fact, the explanation of the response mechanisms actually creates a case that there need not be a god.
Either way, the book makes excellent, factual, case building points. There are detailed and rational explanations behind the rituals I partook in the mormon religion. I never knew why I felt the way I did. I questioned how there could be so many religions in this world. I don't question anymore. Let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Ritual, then, is nothing more than a form of manipulation. By human biology or by god is up to personal preference.
| I just completed reading The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle by Kathleen Flake. This is the most interesting non-Mormon yet Mormon book I have ever read (surpassing Pragmatic Prophet: Joseph Smith III).
The book was engaging on multiple levels:
i) It validated many of the differences between Protestant views of religion versus the Mormon view that I so often felt as a convert. It was incredibly difficult to believe in the theocratic doctrines of Mormonism when I was raised in Protestant dominated Midwest where public schools taught that theocracies were lesser forms of government than democracies. Likewise, making morality subservient to ideology was an unresolved conflict as was the concept of there even being ‘one true church’.
ii) It illuminated the intense pressure brought to bear by Protestants and the sea change in Mormon culture, doctrine, and hierarchal politics that was required to end polygamy once and for all. If you could imagine the drama of Iran Contra hearings, the prevaricating of the Clinton impeachment trials, and the spectacle of the OJ Simpson trial you would begin to get a picture of the Smoot hearings and, in particular, the testimony of Joseph F. Smith.
Some of the best insight into the proceedings are provided by Smoot’s young secretary.
“I feel sick sometimes and sometimes I just feel unwell. The Committee is insisting that John W. Taylor and [Matthias] Cowley come and they ought to, but I do not want them to come and lie, and I do not know whether I want them to come and tell the truth. So there you are – the devil and the deep sea.”
iii) It itemized specific points of modern church belief and practice that were given birth via the death of polygamy. Specific among these are the codifying/promulgation of the First Vision which redefined the belief priorities of being Mormon, reassertion of the ‘one true church’ principle, and redefinition of celestial marriage from plural marriage to eternal marriage with attendant temple restrictions. Even seemingly minor Mormon cultural traits still found today, such as the unhealthy pursuit of perfection, are rooted in that period.
“If the Gospel will not make us better by obedience to its precepts, then it is no better than any other religion…The religion that makes men the best of all in the world is the best religion and that religion has been embraced by the members of this Church for it is the religion of Jesus Christ.” Pres. Joseph F. Smith
After reading this book I am much more knowledgeable about the death throes of polygamy and its effects. My knowledge of non-Mormon American history during this period was also increased.
As an Ex-Mormon I am sympathetic to the concluding argument provided by Utah’s other senator and lapsed Mormon, George Sutherland:
“The melancholy fact runs through all history that nothing has been too absurd, nothing too cruel, to be believed and taught and done in the name of religion… You can not reason with a false religious belief anymore than you can argue with a case of typhoid fever. It simply runs its course and mental health returns… when the false belief no longer appeals to the intellect.” In Flake’s words, “It was a low standard, but one the Mormons could meet.”
Amen Sister Flake. Amen.
| by Walter Kirn, who was at least raised Mormon but I don't know the rest of his story.
This book is about a quest by a young missionary named Elder Mason, who represents a secluded religious sect that needs converts and money to remain alive. In the specifics, the sect has little resemblance to Mormonism, but to we who were raised Mormon and know the history, the Apostles (as they call themselves) will seem very familiar. The way they believe is very folksy and charming perhaps like an idealized Mormonism of old, in contrast to the post-modern shifty Morg of today that seeks power and money instead of spirituality. This conflict is played out in the book on two levels: a schism in Mason's home community and also the conflict between Mason and his senior companion who, upon finding himself in the outside world for the first time, immediately discards the health code of the Apostles (seemingly their most important teaching) and gorges himself on candybars, soda pop, and medication. While Mason is a sincere believer, his companion is a charlatan. These conflicts were most appealing to me, and mayalso be to RfMers, because something similar has happened in the real Mormon church, with the money grubbing charlatans winning out IMO and converting a spiritual (although fraudulent, we all know) religion into a watered-down mainstream shell in order to bring home the cash. So read this book and see how it comes out for the Apostles, and for Mason.
The story is told in first person with a satirical voice that reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut. A lot of the satire is directed at the shallow Terrestrians (the gentiles) who eat processed flour and have been converted to too many religions already to give an ear to Mason. The peak comes when Mason has to take a part-time job as a "mystery shopper" at something like Super HomeDepo, when he has never in his life gone shopping.
I think this book will appeal to anyone who felt like their mission took place on another planet, or to anyone who once loved Mormonism, and maybe still misses it sometimes (even if you are now an atheist, like me).
| I just finished listening to Martha Nibley Beck's Leaving the Saints and compiled my top ten favorite Mo-quotes from her work.
10. My mother kept grinding away at the one occupation recommended for Mormon females – breed well in captivity.
9. Regarding DNA analysis of Native Americans beings of Asian origin rather than Middle Eastern: This is the time for apologists to rush in like white blood cells attacking a virus to defend Joseph Smith and the subsequent Mormon leaders. Nobody does this better than my father.
8. There are layers and layers of Latter-day Saint culture and niceness is only the top layer, the icing on a perfect home baked cake.
7. The only thing scarier than telling my secrets would be keeping them. When the sensitive information you carry is your own history, going mute to protect the system doesn’t keep you from being destroyed, it just means you destroy yourself.
6. Regarding her wedding day endowment: Everyone in the room simultaneously pantomimed the various modes of death that would be inflicted on us if we broke the vows of secrecy. This part of the temple ceremony used to be even gorier. One promised method of death was to have one’s tongue torn out by the root.
Now-a-days the whole murder/suicide pact segment of the ceremony has been eliminated. I think that’s a damn shame. I can’t imagine anything that can clean out your spiritual sinuses as fast a getting together with a bunch of clean cut normal as pie Mormons and performing a synchronized group mime of your own violent death.
I found it so surreal that it was truly marvelous. Like watching a episode of Leave It To Beaver in which June and Ward take just a moment out of their busy day to agree that if they ever leak the family secrets, they’ll hack off each other’s limbs.
5. I’ve always been perplexed that when my son with Downs Syndrome speaks gibberish people assume it’s because he’s mentally retarded, but when Mormon leaders do the same thing, Latter-day Saints assume it’s because the power and depth of their insight boggles ordinary understanding.
4. Mormons are absolute suckers for a juicy life after death testimonial and my father, a Mormon’s Mormon if every there was one, was talking more like Stephen King. On the other hand I remember that Mormons also believe in the literal resurrection of the physical body. Latter-day Saints never cremate their dead because on the morning of the first resurrection, when Jesus appears in Jackson County, Missouri (If you’d to get your tickets right away?) all the graves of the truly righteous saints will fly open and they’ll be raised up to meet Christ with their original flesh and bones but intriguingly, no blood, reanimated and restored to excellent condition, like a pre-owned Lexus.
3. A good Mormon woman has elaborately curled longish hair until middle age and a permed upswepted coiffure in later life. Either way, the highly sprayed hair moves as a unit like a padded, shellacked helmet protecting the brain from injury or information.
2. Regarding the September Six dissident purge: Mormon leaders made public statements that likened the intellectuals to ravening wolves among the flocks. I kind of like the wolf analogy myself. After all, wolves are cooperative social beings who control the population, baby sit each others puppies and develop life long friendships. I decided I vastly preferred being a wolf to being a woman who runs with the sheep.
1. I know a lot of people who claim that their families are weirder because of Mormonism, but I am one of a much more select group who can justifiably claim that Mormonism is weirder because of my family.
Martha Nibley Beck's Leaving The Saints: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/red...
| I am currently reading "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" by Bart Erhman, chairman of Department of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It concerns textual criticism, the science of determining the reliability of various biblical texts. Unlike so many books on the subject, it is written for the layman.
Dr. Erhman has been a prolific and popular author. He has written several books on early Christianity and its literature, some of which I own and have read. I like him because he is scholarly and moderate.
Of particular interest to me was the account of his evolution as a believer. He was raised as an Episcopalian. Through a high school Christian group, he became "born again". He attended fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute, then evangelical Wheaton College, and finally liberal Princeton Theological Seminary.
As a Christian fundamentalist, he believed the Bible to be inerrant. The more he studied, though, the more suspect this absolutist position became. Eventually, he concluded that the Bible is literature, not inspired scripture.
For his final term paper analyzing the gospel of Mark for a Princeton class, he attempted to rationalize a historical mistake. This involves the incident when Pharisees accuse Jesus' disciples of violating the Sabbath because they picked grain to eat. Jesus reminds them that King David and his hungry soldiers ate temple grain. "Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath." Mark mistakenly names Abiathar as high priest at the time of this event, when it was Abiathar's father, Ahemelech.
Ehrman writes, "In my paper for Professor Story, I developed a long and complicated argument to the effect that even though Mark indicates this happened "when Abiathar was the high priest," it doesn't really mean that Abiathar was the high priest, but that the event took place in the part of the scriptural text that has Abiathar as one of the main characters. My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words involved and was a bit convoluted. I was pretty sure Professor Story would appreciate the argument, since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me. He wrote: 'Maybe Mark just made a mistake.' I started thinking about it, considering all the work I had put into the paper, realizing that I had had to do some pretty fancy exegetical footwork to get around the problem, and that my solution was in facta bit of a stretch. I finally concluded, 'Hmm...maybe Mark did make a mistake.'"
Ehrman wouldn't have had this experience if he wasn't willing to challenge his fundamentalist beliefs by attending Princeton. "Once again I was warned by my evangelical friends against going to Princeton Seminary, since, as they told me, I would have trouble finding any 'real' Christians there. It was, after all, a Presbyterian seminary, not exactly a breeding ground for born-again Christians. But my study of English literature, philosophy, and history-not to mention Greek-had widened my horizons significantly, and my passion was now for knowledge, knowledge of all kinds, sacred and secular, If learning the 'truth' meant no longer being able to identify with the born-again Christians I knew in high school, so be it. I was intent of pursuing my quest for truth wherever it might take me. trusting that any truth I learned was no less true for being unexpected or difficult to fit into the pigeonholes provided by my evangelical background."
I feel a real kinship to Ehrman and his search for truth. Mine has led me to very similar conclusions concerning Mormonism, Christianity, and the Bible. Ehrman has been one of my many guides in this search, including my fellow "Ex-Mos".
| In Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith, Harris' argues that religious faith is the primary culprit for much, if not most, of the social evil that exists in the world, including specifically, but not limited to, the current terrorist activities of Muslim extremists. Faith, through its irrational commitment to sacred scripture, and its exclusivist dogma, drives religious institutions and individuals toward a false certainty of their belief systems, resulting in divinely sanctioned violence. Thus, according to Harris, "religion has been the explicit cause of millions of deaths in the last ten years." (page 26).
But it is not just the terrorist activity of institutional religion that bothers Harris. His complaint is against faith generally, including faith that pays lip service to non-violence, while espousing moderation, and religious tolerance. Thus, he states: "[T]he very idea of religious tolerance . . . is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss." (page 15) Moderation, for Harris, is only a willingness to turn a blind eye to the "literal tenants of one's faith." Thus, true Christians as well as true Muslims who take seriously their sacred texts must be committed to the violence and irrationality that are clearly and distinctly manifest in such texts. As Harris puts it: "This is a problem for moderation in religion: it has nothing underwriting it other than the acknowledged neglect of the letter of the divine law." (page 15)
It is not just that religious faith is the explanation of terrorist atrocities; Harris's issue with even moderate forms of religious faith encompasses the claim that religious faith is per se irrational. "Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God, but they want us to keep using the name 'God' as though we knew what we were talking about." For Harris, religious faith is irrational for the same reason that skeptics judge it irrational, because it is not supported by credible evidence, or more charitably by reasonable inferences from one's spiritual intuitions.
What is remarkable about Harris' book is that his attack on faith and religion is not a wholesale dismissal of spirituality. He believes that spiritual intuitions are valid empirical experiences, but that we can meet our spiritual needs by other, more rational means. Thus, he states: "There is little doubt that a certain range of human experience can be appropriately described as 'spiritual' or 'mystical.' (page 39) Moreover, "Many of the results of spiritual practice are genuinely desirable, and we owe it to ourselves to seek them out." Although such spiritual experiences are genuine, "the popular religious ideas that have grown up around them are as dangerous as they are incredible." (Ibid.) Thus, Harris seems to adhere to the currently popular concept of religious naturalism, cut loose from metaphysical religious implications.
There is not doubt that Harris' book appeals to our intuitive disgust of historical atrocities committed in the name of religion, as well as our more feverish frustration and fear over current religious violence, particularly 9-11. Of course, we all more or less share in such emotions. However, when a remedy is proposed that (1) selectively assigns blame to a single aspect of cultural social practice, (2) indirectly points the finger at a group of people, namely the religious generally, and (3) demands intolerance of such group as a remedy for the violence, one has to wonder whether Harris is trading one kind of intolerance for another. More importantly, such accusations and theories demand more than loose expositions of facts and evidence. What is needed, and must be demanded, is a thorough consideration of hard evidence, presumably from the social sciences, that establishes the necessary connection between violence and faith–particularly moderate faith. Moreover, he needs to provide evidence that there arenot other factors associated with terrorist violence, for example, economic, political, and social conditions, that contribute to violence in a manner that is isolated from considerations of faith. Finally, he needs to provide evidence showing that a removal of faith will reduce the quantity of violence, and its effects, without other undesirable tradeoffs. For example, although some violence would undoubtedly be eliminated by an eradication of faith, it is certainly conceivable that other forms of violence, for example, violence associated with adverse economic conditions, might actually increase. Despite Harris' reliance on isolated and ancient passages of religious texts, there is no question that religious faith and practice in the present age stresses non-violence, patience, and tolerance. It is quite conceivable that overall violence would increase, not decrease, if these values were undermined.
Harris' argument that faith is responsible for social violence is logically suspect as committing the informal logical fallacy sometimes called "hasty generalization." Harris is taking the premise that terrorist violence is driven by people of faith, and concluding that all people of faith are thus dangerous, or potentially dangerous. It is reminiscent of the argument that since all drug addicts started with marijuana, there must be something implicit about marijuana that leads to hard drugs. It is also reminiscent of the argument that since most violence involves guns, guns are per se objectionable. It just doesn't follow. The fact that in a relatively small number of cases vaccinations cause disease and death does not support the view that vaccinations must cease as a social evil. Similarly, just because extremist faith can and does lead to violence does not entail anything implicitly bad about faith, other than the fact that at times it can lead to violence. A thorough risk benefit analysis is needed, supported by evidence. This is not even suggested by Harris.
As a philosopher, Harris realizes that his argument requires a convincing and authoritative moral theory that can take the place of religious absolutism. Harris' book in itself is full of value judgments that by his own philosophical tone demand a rational explanation. Thus, he provides a kind of patchwork moral theory involving naturalism and intuitionism that never is rigorously articulated. Moreover, we have a right to be immediately skeptical. After over two millennia of effort, no such moral theory has been forthcoming. As the philosopher David Copp has noted:
"Although we have moral beliefs we have some reason to doubt that they are on a secure footing. For one thing, there is no culturally entrenched rationally appealing process, comparable to scientific method, that we can appeal to for an answer to our plea for an articulated and defended morality, or even for answers to specific moral disputes. . . . The existence of seemingly fundamental disputes between apparently rational and well-intentioned people and the absence of an appealing decision procedure provide us with some reason to doubt the rational basis of the whole enterprise of morality." (David Copp, Morality, Reason and Truth)
Consider also, the following statement by Bertrand Russell:
"Questions as to "values"–that is to say, as to what is good or bad on its own account, independently of its effects–lie outside the domain of science, as the defenders of religion emphatically assert. I think that in this they are right, but I draw the further conclusion, which they do not draw, that questions as to "values" lie wholly outside the domain of knowledge." (Bertrand Russell, Religion and Science)
Notwithstanding the widespread, and almost academically universal adherence to some form of moral relativism, Harris rejects such view out of hand, noting: "But most forms of relativism–including moral relativism, which seems especially well subscribed–are nonsensical." (page 178) This statement naively ignores the compelling reasons why moral absolutism has been rejected by non-religious philosophers, and why moral relativism has enjoyed such a commanding academic following. As is typical, Harris offers no discussion on the complexity of these issues. Instead, Harris adopts a form of moral realism based upon naturalistic principles. He thus states: "To be an ethical realist is to believe that in ethics, as in physics, there are truths waiting to be discovered–and thus we can be right or wrong in our beliefs about them." (page 181) Such a statement is just silly. The discussion of intuition as somehow grounding this naturalistic view gets him nowhere. Regarding intuitionist theories generally, philosopher A.J. Ayer has noted:
"A feature of this theory, which is seldom recognized by its advocates, is that what seems intuitively certain to one person may seem doubtful, or even false, to another. So that unless it is possible to provide some criterion by which one may decide between conflicting intuitions, a mere appeal to intuition is worthless as a test of a proposition's validity. But in the case of moral judgments, no such criterion can be given." (A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic)
Harris answers this objection by acknowledging the difficulty, and then merely insisting, that reliance upon intuition is not fatal to moral argument:
"The fact that we must rely on certain intuitions to answer ethical questions does not in the least suggest that there is anything insubstantial, ambiguous, or culturally contingent about ethical truth. As in any other field, there will be room for intelligent dissent on questions of right and wrong, but intelligent dissent has its limits."
Harris believes that rational moral discourse can be grounded through our intuitions about the ultimate value of happiness and love. Then, after grossly understating the difficulty of such view, he merely states: "Admittedly, the problem of adjudicating what counts has happiness, and which forms of happiness should supercede others, is difficult–but so is every other problem worth thinking about."
This dead end is unacceptable. First, there is no reason to assume happiness is intuitively acceptable as the foundation for ethical theory, let alone what might count as "happiness." (A personal example that comes to mind is the value of truth over happiness. No doubt at least in my own case, happiness would have been better served in my family had I been willing to fake an allegiance to Mormonism) Such views have been soundly criticized and refuted. Add to this the religious world view that invariably encompasses a context of happiness that includes a future life, Harris' moral theory gets nowhere, and we are left with only empty rhetoric.
A common theme throughout Harris' book is the idea that religious faith is per se irrational. This assumption is much more problematic than Harris realizes–especially if you accept the validity of "spiritual intuitionism" which he apparently subscribes to. We need an account of rationality here that encompasses a concept of evidence that is objectively and logically compelling. Invoking a scientific worldview will not do because there is nothing within science that suggests that such a worldview encompasses all of reality, or for that matter moral justification. (See Russell quote above) You need an argument that logically and rationally imposes evidentiary standards on belief systems–without begging the question by insisting on a scientific worldview.
Harris states: "Believing a given proposition is a matter of believing that it faithfully represents some state of the world, and this fact yields some immediate insights into standards by which our beliefs should function. In particular, it reveals why we cannot help but value evidence and demand that propositions about the world logically cohere. These constraints apply equally to matters of religion." (Page 51)
Note, however, that there is nothing about the intentional mental state of belief as corresponding to the world that demands anything–except perhaps logical consistency and coherence with other beliefs. If by "evidence" Harris means scientific evidence, his statement is just wrong. The terrorist accepts a worldview that is arguably consistent with and coheres with his other beliefs. Moreover, his evidence for such a worldview is, at least ideally, based upon his own spiritual intuitions, or his acceptance of the spiritual intuitions of others. Thus, Harris' discussion of logical contradiction and coherence does not support his thesis that religious faith is per se irrational. Much more work needs to be done.
Thus, essentially none of Harris' arguments have philosophical or logical merit. It reads more as rambling populist rhetoric than a serious and rigorous discussion of the relationship between faith and terrorism. This, of course, is not to suggest that there is no such relationship; and certainly not to suggest that terrorism itself must be tolerated. But to single out one of many contributing factors of terrorism, and then advocate without well-reasoned argument intolerance toward non-violent demonstrations of faith, is both unjustified and arguably irresponsible. Faith may indeed be a social liability; and it may be irrational, but Harris has not shown either.
| In the early 1980s sociologist Rodney Stark caused a considerable stir in academic circles by predicting the meteoric rise of Mormonism to the status of ‘world religion’ during the twenty first century, projecting a possible membership of 267 million by 2080 (63 million being the lower estimate). This book comprises a collection of previously published articles in which Stark defends and refines his views on the progress and basis of Mormon growth, with the addition of a couple of previously unpublished sections, including an introduction by the editor (Reid L. Neilson, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina) discussing the reception of Stark’s prognostications among Mormon and non-Mormon commentators. Most of the articles reproduced in this volume appeared originally in the _Review of Religious Research_, which is a particularly difficult journal to locate in British academic libraries: hence this volume opens up Stark’s essays to a larger audience. This book is therefore not a narrative account of the rise of Mormonism such as would have been comparable with Stark’s earlier popular treatment of the _Rise of Christianity_.
After nearly a quarter of a century Stark is very up-beat about the prospect of the Mormon church meeting his predicted levels of growth in the coming century. He understandably claims vindication against his critics on the basis of Mormon figures which have so far exceeded the upper level predicted by his model of exponential growth. What is somewhat surprising, however, is that even in the new sections of the book no attempt is made by Stark to confront mounting evidence that Mormon growth has slowed dramatically in recent years. Also disappointing is the failure to interact with a growing discussion about how to interpret the church’s official figures in view of a worldwide drop in membership ‘activity rates’. While new baptisms ensure that the total membership figure is always rising, this masks a growing nominalism within the church as many converts have drifted from the association and no longer consider themselves affiliated to the church. This phenomenon has been most dramatically demonstrated in various countries where census results have revealed that only a fraction of those on the church’s rolls actually consider themselves Mormons. Future discussions of Mormon growth by Stark or others must involve a more penetrative consideration of how to interpret official membership figures, supplementing these with other indicators of growth, such as activity rates and census returns.
Stark’s enthusiasm for the success of the Mormon church must be understood within the context of his wider contribution to the discussion of the fate of religion in the modern world. Rejecting formulations of the secularization thesis espoused by Bryan Wilson and Steve Bruce, Stark maintains that religion is still very much in demand and that fellow sociologists of religion who uphold the secularization thesis have mistaken religious change for religious decline. Hence the rise of new and successful religious groups, such as the Mormons, is central to Stark’s view that the current religious scene represents a buoyant and vibrant spiritual ‘marketplace’ in which religious innovators continually plug the gaps left by declining liberal churches. While Steve Bruce has offered compelling reasons for rejecting Stark’s contention that religion and belief in the supernatural in general are in good shape (see _God is Dead: Secularization in the West_), more detailed analyses of the specific examples that Stark commonly cites, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as the Mormons, is needed to demonstrate that they are incorrectly enlisted as supporting his rejection of the secularization thesis.
Although I have outlined the considerable weaknesses of Stark’s analysis of Mormon growth in particular, as well as the implications of his using this as a faulty basis for his general theory concerning religious supply and demand, I would be remiss not to mention some of the other redeeming features of this collection. Included in the volume is an excellent study of the factors that have contributed to Mormon growth to date, with careful attention paid to the social networks by which the church has expanded and thrived. Stark perceptively observes that personal contacts with outsiders by ordinary members have been much more successful in producing converts to the church than has the traditional cold-call tactics of missionaries or high profile church advertising campaigns. An article on the early growth and development of the church also demonstrates that close family networks have played a crucial role in the movement’s growth and cohesion since its inception. Although Stark has overstated the present and potential growth of the Mormon church, where he is on firmer ground is when he argues that a vital component of the church’s ability to achieve the status of ‘world religion’ in the future will be in the realm of successful public relations. While the Mormon church will probably never reach that predicted 267 million figure (or even the lower 63 million estimate), the church is in many ways already well along the road to establishing itself as a ‘world faith’ rather than a 'sect' in the twenty first century.
| Any comments about Maurine Whipple's novel "The Giant Joshua?"
It was published in 1942, and was reprinted by Sam Weller about 28 years ago. And, in truth, its a great read.
I was surprised a Mormon could write a novel like that, and get away with it. Whipple wrote it in the early 40s, when the church was more bloodthirsty than it is now. The brethren have always hated a rebel. Whipple was a rebel, to be sure, who wrote about "blood atonement,"polygamy as it was practiced (not happily), and life in the theocracy run by Brigham Young.
I read it in 1978, and it opened my eyes to many things--"blood atonement" in particular. I had not realized, until I read her novel, how it was used to keep Mormons in line. The heroine of the novel is in love with her husband's son (they are the same age) but the fear of "blood atonement" keeps them from doing anything, including leaving Utah.
The descriptions of life in Brigham Young's Utah police state are very painful. The wives detest each other, and are instantly jealous of a new wife. The husbands are horny buggers, "Priesthood" holders in the worst sense. And they don't know much about foreplay, as I recall. All they know is kingdom building, adding wives, and posing as great patriarchs-- like their role model Brother Brigham.
At any rate, its well worth reading. It made the national best seller lists when it was first published, and was read in more than just the U.S. The Brits read it as well. Whipple said that the Brits read it in the "tubes" while seeking refuge from Hitler's Luftwaffe. It is a real novel, not "The Work and the Glory" kind of kitsch. Mormonism has not produced another Whipple.
Oh yes, by way of information--its available on Amazon.
The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple.
| I just finished a book by a fellow ex-Mormon and I’m here to report.
The book is called Portals of the Night by Dennis C. Farley. He has posted here occasionally as Portal.
This book is creative, artistic and intelligently written. A reflective ex-Mormon could not ask for a better read.
The story is a multifaceted fiction thriller with great sub-plots. Maybe I should call it a psychological suspense story. Maybe I should call it science fiction or fantasy. Maybe a better description would be a story demonstrating important concepts from world mythology. Maybe it is an exposé of the LDS temple teachings. Perhaps I could call it a legal scandal tale since it involves making the LDS church accountable for what it teaches. I can say the symbolism in this book and the themes it presents are intriguing.
I’m still not sure I’ve captured this book for you. Imagine a mix like this:
Take a bit of Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage and add it to some Krakauer’s Banner of Heaven. Then add some of the intrigue of a Dan Brown mystery murder story and spice it up with some hints of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. Mix in some drops of Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series, the Story of B, and a pinch of existentialist philosophy. Shake in a healthy dose of musings on the subconscious. Stir with Greek mythology and applications of world mythology that would make Joseph Campbell proud. Add some law expertise and the perspective of an ex-Mormon who is remarkably talented. Blend throughout with LDS temple proceedings and Mormon culture.
Have I hooked you yet? If you read this book, please post about it because I’d love to discuss it!
For your information, you can order it from places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iUniverse and it will be ready in two to three weeks. It is a print on demand book. I ordered it from Barnes and Noble and picked it up at the store (no shipping charges) for $22.95.
The ISBN number is 0595344356.
Since this book is especially for ex-Mormons by an ex-Mormon, I’m hopeful this book can get some attention. I like to do what I can to support our ex-Mormon authors.
By the way, I do not know the author and have no agenda other than to share what I thought of this book.
I just ordered the book by Natalie Collins, which is next on my list. Thanks to the excellent authors who educate and entertain us with stories ex-Mos can appreciate!
| Obviously, the worst church books are "The Book of Mormon," the "Pearl of Great Fraud," and "The Doctrine and Covenants." If the church had any brains, they would deep six them. Even the most cursory reading shows them to be man made. The "Pearl of Great Fraud" is almost criminally insane.
But the works of Brother Joseph are not alone. There are other trashy works, some of which are gone, and some of which linger on and on and on and on.
My favorites are:
"The Autobiography of Parley Pratt." Long after I read it, I learned it was a fraud, and had been compiled by others. Old Parley was long gone, felled by an "assassin," which was church-speak for enraged husband.
"Essentials in Church History," is another book of fantasy. In fact, one of my companions called it "Essentials in Church Fantasy."
It has precious little history, but lots of folklore, propaganda, and party line. Joseph is like a god, moving among the lesser mortals. He does no wrong, and all the Mormons are unfairly persecuted. Its the party line writ large. I am not sure it would be that easy to find in print . It was so full of bias and propaganda it even embarrassed the church.
Another gem was "Man, his Origin and Destiny." Unless I am wrong, this came from the pissing contest between B.H. Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith. Smith, of course, outlasted his enemy, and his view of the subject was around for a long time.
It presents the standard church fare--Adam and Eve, divine creation, and all the rest. Look at it now, and you cringe.
"Mormon Doctrine," has to be one of the nastiest books ever written. It did damage in many Mormon homes, and gave the church the image of being a Catholic hating organization. Many Mormons did not buy off on the "church of the devil" stuff, but enough did. Going to the temple reinforced the view.
I always felt embarrassed when a Catholic brought that touchy subject to my attention. And for good reason. It was one hell of a cheap shot.
"The Miracle of Forgiveness" has also done terrible harm to many people. It was always recommended by Bishops to sinners, who, upon reading it, felt even more guilt, depression, and despair. I wonder how many people committed suicide after reading the book?
The part about a woman needing to die rather than submit to a rapist is particularly cruel. How, in God's name, could anyone have written that? It could not have been more stupid.
The only comic relief in the book, besides the irony of the title, is the part about Cain appearing to be a Bigfoot type creature. That was funny. The rest of the book was not.
"Stand for Something," is the most recent bit of rubbish. This book was prepared to give Hinckley a nation wide audience. It was published for public consumption, which it did not get. The Mike Wallace blurb on the cover did not increase sales.
I glanced through it, and found lots of platitudes, Mormon stories disguised to fool any non Mormon readers, and too much of nothing. The book hardly seemed inspired. I would rank it with junk written by people like Robert Schueller. Hinckley wanted to be a public figure, a man recognized as a national religious leader. He did not make it. He came across as a platitude dispenser, a self-promoter in the Pat Robertson tradition.
While I was on my mission, my parents sent me a couple of books of the writings of David O. McKay. I enjoyed them. I read about Robert the Bruce, Robert Burns, literature, learning, kindness, and education. I threw out nearly all of my church books, but I kept McKay. I felt uplifted by his writing. It was broad, educated, and kind. What a contrast to the drivel from McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, Spencer Kimball, and Gordon Hinckley.
Mormonism has surely produced a lot of books. I "stand all amazed" at the number of books. Not many were worth reading. Compilations of Conference talks don't amount to much. Neither do silly novels, guilt inducing books on repentance, or dogmatic diatribes.
| I have only read three books so far on church history. That is to say, church history that the church does not approve.
No Man Knows My History
Under the Banner of Heaven
Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith
No Man made me laugh. I found it humorous for some reason. Perhaps because this was my first exposure to the naughty bits of Joseph Smith's life - which I found absurd. Money digging indeed.
Under the Banner depressed me greatly. It weighed heavily on my soul for quite a while.
Mormon Enigma infuriated me. I had nights I could not sleep. I was so very, very angry on behalf of this woman. All I'd ever heard in church about Emma Smith was "We don't know what happened. She lost her way. She married again to a person who was not very nice at all. Such a shame."
Emma Smith believed in her husband. After everything that happened, near the end of her life, she still professed that he was everything he claimed to be. She never lost her faith in the Book of Mormon. She stood by him. She was his scribe. For months the Golden Plates lay on her kitchen table, covered with a cloth. She lifted them but never looked at them. She had great faith in Joseph Smith's work. Her life was anything but easy. Many children died, they moved from place to place, she was estranged from her own family.
By all accounts Joseph and Emma had a pretty decent marriage. He seemed to value her greatly. UNTIL, yes, until he started marrying her friends without her knowledge. She heard rumors and spoke against plural marriage in Relief Society. As a result Relief Society was shut down for a decade. At some point in time she became aware of the hard cold truth. From that point until the end of her life she fought against polygamy. She fought with Joseph over and over. He brought home the prophesy on paper. (DandC 132). She continued to argue with him so much that he eventually burned the paper in front of her.
Joseph refused to endow her unless she humbled herself to this covenant. His brother Hyrum also tried to talk sense into her. Eventually she agreed to choose 4 wives for her husband. Ironically two of them had already married him. They had a second ceremony to hide this fact from Emma. Not long after she reached her breaking point and kicked them out of her house, making Joseph promise to no longer see them.
She refused to follow Brigham Young in large part because she would not support polygamy. She shielded her children from the covenant. As adults they asked her outright if their father was a polygamist and she replied no. She adamantly denied it even though many other people still knew differently. In the RLDS church it is widely believed that Joseph Smith was not a polygamist and this is why.
Her second husband did father a child out of wedlock. The child came to live with them. Despite the trash talk from every LDS member that traveled from Utah they seemed to have a decent marriage. Her children were fond of him. His letters to her were touching.
The very notion that God would not only condone this situation but insist on it is absurd. How anyone can claim that the one true church, the perfect gospel, would create such a situation is beyond my understanding.
How long will it be before my anger on behalf of Emma Smith goes away? Only time will tell.
| First, I am aghast at the callous manipulations and (I can’t find words strong enough), and unfeeling, selfish actions of a so-called prophet of God. I will bracket all of Todd Compton’s quotes [ ].
[Pg. 22, 23
The introduction was priceless, and I quote: “Gentile (i.e., non-Mormon) marriages were “illegal” of not eternal value or even earthly validity; marriages authorized by the Mormon priesthood and prophets took precedence. Sometimes these sacred marriages were felt to fulfill pre-mortal linkings and so justified a sacred marriage superimposed over a secular one. Mormonism’s intensely hierarchical nature allowed a man with the highest earthly authority – a Joseph Smith or a Brigham Young – to request the wives of men holding lesser priesthood or no priesthood.]
[Pg. 463, 464
At this point Smith proposed to fifteen – or sixteen-year-old Lucy demanding that she marry him . . .
. . . Smith saw that Lucy was unhappy and sought another interview . . . He told her that the marriage would have to be secret . . . He emphasized that this was not a proposal that she could accept or reject according to a romantic whim. To refuse him would bring damnation: “It is a command of God to you.” Furthermore, there was a time limit: “I will give you until to-morrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.”]
Next, what person believes such rot? Who would believe in a God so precarious, shifty, partial, and unfair as this god?
Next – I think the still “Mormon” Todd Compton makes a Freudian slip:
It fits him into the context of the broader “spiritual wife” doctrine of the Burned-over District, in which spiritual affinities between a man and woman took precedence over legal but nonsacral marriage.] (Freudian slip is next)
[Perhaps the Mormon doctrine of the pre-existence derived in part from this influence.]
What – Todd – a TBM does not think it came from God, that it is reality. That seems like a foundational belief to me – but who knows today. What was true then or even in the 60’s or 80’s is no longer true.
The saddest thing to me was how these selfish men kept these families in constant turmoil, adding to their already over-dramatic lives. Constant moving, constant fear, constant anti-cultural ways to live, constant poverty, constant upheaval, constant death (it had to increase with all the instability).
One polygamous wife wrote of polygamy – exactly the way she wrote about the death of her beloved baby. She knew that God was testing her; she knew that he would expect hard things and that she must endure and obey. She knew that her willingness to be obedient even when she did not want to was just her rebellious spirit and that God knew best.
Many of these women wondered if they were sinful to have so much to endure.
One last thing – the women that were married to Joseph were part of a very elite, exclusive club and were venerated and respected – because they had married the prophet. Initially, Joseph was revered, worshiped, and idolized beyond what I have experienced – and I have seen him worshiped, but this was sick.
They really thought that he would decide who would enter the CK and where they would go and with whom. Jesus was a secondary consideration to JS.
| I cannot remember who first provided the link to "Tell It All: A Woman's Life in Polygamy," and I want to let her know how much I appreciate the link.
I don't enjoy reading books online, so I looked in Amazon, and they have the book--a somewhat pricey reprint, but worth every cent.
It is one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. The book has the ring of truth--the details she provides all ring true, and there is no doubt she wrote an honest account of her experiences as a Mormon. If you grew up in the Mormon church, you can feel her experiences with her. Most of the original framework is still in use. Little has changed, save the veneer of modernity.
Additionally, her observations of Mormonism are very shrewd. She saw the whole system for what it was, with all of its subtle and manipulative ways. Polygamy might be "gone" now, but the system is in place, and operates the same way. We still have the self-serving, and out of touch leaders. We still have the manipulation of the people, and the total indifference to the feelings, individuality, and concerns of the members. Its almost frightening to read about the church then, because its the same church now. This woman wrote the truth.
She also gives us detailed accounts of the handcart fiasco, the massacre at Mountain Meadows, "blood atonement," the bullying ways of Brigham Young, George A. Smith, Jedidiah Grant, and the reptilian Heber C. Kimball. These men were pigs, to be sure, and they had all the decency of frontier criminals.
She makes some other shrewd observations. Why, for example, did it take so long for the Salt Lake temple to be built? She says Brigham had the money, but kept putting it into his own account. She shows several ways in which the "Lion of Lord" used the people and the cult, to benefit himself.
What a book. Its remarkable reading, and I cannot begin to say how much I have enjoyed it--even though parts break the heart, and make the skin crawl.
Mormonism was made to provide huge doses of depression and unhappiness.
| I just finished reading the book “Good To Great” by Jim Collins ( see http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASI... ) and it struck me that the book was describing the central problems of the church as an institution. I thought it would be relevant for discussion here.
The book presents several concepts that the church excels at:
The “Stockdale Paradox” where the survival and success of an institution requires the unwavering determination for ultimate success; no organization exhibits this trait better than the church (and probably all religions). The leaders never falter in their view that the church will have ultimate success, in fact they are utterly convinced that the LDS religion will be the only one standing at the end of the race. This is the central reason for the church’s current success, and the central reason why the church moves through challenges and adversity so unharmed. They know they will succeed.
The “Hedgehog Concept” where the move from good to great depends on the institutions ability to focus on the intersection of three central areas of focus: 1. What are they most passionate about, 2. What they can do better than anyone else, and 3. What should be the central measurement or common denominator to track their progress. The church has done a tremendous job of excelling at this concept: They are passionate about building the kingdom; they can be the best at missionary work and socially structured programs for youth; and their common denominator for success is temple recommend holding members. These guys are good at this.
“Getting The Right People On The Bus” concept involves selecting leaders who exhibit the traits of the stockdale paradox and who are committed to the three circles of the hedgehog concept. The church excels getting the right people (zealot yes-men) in leadership positions, and you can bet that only the right people make it to the top quorums. This concept also involves getting the wrong people off the bus and that would be us (those who discover contradictions). The church is really good at marginalizing dissent.
So, as sad as it is, the church excels at some critical business model criteria for being a really good organization. They will probably be around for a long time.
The Church Can Never Become Great……
The book describes a critical trait that companies must have if they are ever to transition from good to great, and the church can never attain this trait.
“A great institution must have the ability to face the brutal facts about itself.”
The church has failed at this so many times that it should not even require elaboration. The top leaders are surrounded by cheerleaders and insulated from “the brutal facts”. Even when these brutal facts are presented, they are couched in terms of the work of the adversary against the kingdom, or the lack of faith on the part of the members…. Why are more and more people resigning their membership? Why are more young adults going inactive? Why is the rate of convert growth declining? Why are there no Lamanites? Why isn’t the Book of Abraham papyrus the Book of Abraham?..........
When I was reading the section of the book related to this idea of facing the brutal facts, it struck me that this is what will drag the church into a downward spiral. The top quorums move slowly, and can only move in unison, or not at all. The utter inability of the top leadership of the church to face brutal facts will make the church look more and more ridiculous as information expands and mythological proofs contract. The church is feeling the force of its own entropic mentality. Truth is falling more frequently outside of its reach , leaving it with a shrinking bubble of what it actually has to offer.
| I just finished "Behind Closed Doors" by our own Natalie Collins.
She has a way of building tension. It’s a page turner. It’s easy, fun and fast to read. It’s entertaining in lots of ways but for ex-Mormons it is especially amusing. I’m not kidding; practically every page has some little nuance about Mormonism that will leave you nodding knowingly. She starts with the gloves off and spills temple lingo. LOL! No wonder she is getting hate mail.
She captures all kinds of effects of Mormonism. Every character shows a side of Mormonism you will recognize. It’s got suspense. It’s a romance and will especially appeal to women who escaped Mormonism. It has murder and mayhem. If you want to escape and be entertained with a good story, check it out.
It’s another great addition to growing ex-Mormon genre. Support our exmo authors. Every book like hers helps educate as well as entertain.
PS to Natalie: Thanks for another great read! So many little things seemed like they were written as an inside joke just for me! For example, living in SE Idaho, we camp at Coulter Bay often. Names, streets, descriptions, and experiences described captured the LDS culture as we know it. Good job! I wish I had your talent.
If I said too much here, let me know and I'll delete it. I don't want to be a spoiler in any way.
| If you're looking for one more Xmas gift, may I heartily recommend "The Great Transformation" by Karen Armstrong.
For you theists, Armstrong's book is a treasure trove of historical knowledge about the great religions of today. She examines their genesis in the years 900 to 200 BCE a time referred to as "The Axial Age". These religions include Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Confucianism, Judaism, Daoism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity as well as much of Greek philosophy. This book is a gold mine!
For us atheists, "Transformation" is a comprehensive account of the inspiration, evolution and institutionalization of all these great religions. She recounts their amazing successes, dismal failures and the uncertainty of their future.
But one theme that impressed me the most was that absolutely every religion has, at its core, the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself or some variation of that is the heart and soul of all religions. The fact that this simple philosophy has been grossly distorted or outright abandoned is not lost on Armstrong.
The concluding eleven pages are worth the price of the book. Its that good.
Having just finished "Transformation", I have realized for the first time the great failing of Mormonism. Here I am, eight years out of the church and I just had a "revelation" about why Mormonism was, is and ever will be little more than a marginal cult.
Mormonism is all about the plan of salvation, doctrines and dogma, the Word of Wisdom, tithing, endowments, sealings, baptisms, interviews and endless, mindless meetings. Mormonism is only peripherally about doing good unto others in a way that we would want them to do to us. Mormonism is all about the trappings of religion, the facade of religion, the appearance of religion and, as I have so often said herein, the smoke and mirrors of religion. It is only slightly about The Good.
So, if you are looking for a great book for someone else or if you want some great reading for yourself, read "The Great Transformation".
| An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, John L. Sorenson. Deseret Book Company, c1993. ISBN: 087747608X
An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. Palmer, Grant H. Signature Books, c2002. ISBN: 1560851570
By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri, Larson, Charles M. Institute for Religious Research, c. 1992. ISBN: 0962096326
Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Rev. and enlarged. Quinn, D. Michael. Signature Books, c1998. ISBN: 1560850892
History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Deseret Book Company, 2nd ed. rev., c. 1978. ISBN: 0877476888
In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Compton, Todd. Signature Books, c1997. ISBN: 156085085X
Joseph Smith. Remini, Robert Vincent. Viking/Putnam, c2002. ISBN: 067003083X
Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism. Bushman, Richard L. Univ. of Illinois Press, c1984. ISBN: 0252011430
Joseph Smith: the Making of a Prophet. Vogel, Dan . Signature Books, c2004. ISBN: 1560851791
Lectures on Faith. Joseph Smith. Covenant Communications, Incorporated. ISBN: 1577346378
Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, by Simon G. Southerton. Signature Books. ISBN: 1560851813
Mormon America: the Power and the Promise, by R.N. Ostling and J.K. Ostling. HarperSanFrancisco/HarperCollins, c1999. ISBN: 0060663715
Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Prophet's Wife, "Elect lady," Polygamy's Foe, 1804-1879, by L.K. Newell and V.T. Avery. Doubleday, c1984. ISBN: 0385171668
The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. Quinn, D. Michael. Signature Books /Smith Research Associates, c1997. ISBN: 1560850604
Studies of the Book of Mormon. Ed. and with an introd. by B.D. Madsen; with a biographical essay by Sterling M. McMurrin. Roberts, B. H. (Brigham Henry). Univ. of Illinois Press, c1985. ISBN: 0252010434
Witness of the Light: a Photographic Journey in the Footsteps of the American Prophet Joseph Smith. Text and photos. by S.F. Proctor; ed. by M.J. Proctor; designed by Kent Ware. Deseret Book Co., c1991. ISBN: 0875793894
Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900, by Edwin Brown Firmage, Richard Collin Mangrum, Univ. of Illinois Press, c.1988. ISBN: 0252069803
Reading list LDS Church history from their own authors. All found in the REFERENCE Section of the LDS Church libraries: Ward/Stake houses, Institute of Religion:
[own some of these in our private library] This is documented, reliable original material. Can't beat their own words!
"History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" 7 Vol's by Joseph Smith Jr
"A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"
6 Vol's by B H Roberts
"Readings in L.D.S. Church History from Original Manuscripts" 3 Vol's by William E. Berrett and Alma P Burton
"Journal of Discourses" 26 vol's
Others from my library:
Each one sheds light on some area of Mormonism and it's beginnings, and how it was lived initially.
"An American Prophets Record: The Diaries And Journals Of Joseph Smith" Editor: Faulring, Scott H.; Author: Smith, Joseph
"In Sacred Loneliness The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith" by Todd Compton
"The First Mormon" by Donna Hill
"Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" by D Michael Quinn
"Joseph Smith Begins His Work" Vol 1, 2 by Wilford C Wood
Contains the original: The Book of Mormon,The Book of Commandments, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Lectures on Faith , the Fourteen Articles of Faith
"No Man Knows My History" by Fawn Brady
"Mormon Enigma Emma Hale Smith" by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery
"Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith Psychobiography and The Book of Mormon" by Robert D Anderson
"Insider's View of Mormon Origins" By Grant H Palmer
. ...by his own hand upon papyrus Charles M Larson
This is one of several on the Hofmann Affair
"The Mormon Murders" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
One of several on the Mt. Meadows Massacre
"American Massacre The tragedy at Mountain Meadows Sept 1857" by Sally Denton
"What the Mormon Missionaries Don't Tell You The Rest of the Story": by Gerald Paul
Misc - books on "the big picture" that are helpful putting Mormonism in perspective...
"The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell,
"Demon Haunted World" by Carl Sagan,
"Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer,
"The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine,
"The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer
| My family background contributed heavily into why we joined the Mormon church. I didn't know any of the following, when I joined in 1961. But, I had enough personal experience to understand Joseph Smith Jr and what he was most likely doing.
A little background on Mormonism and the times.
"Among the practices no longer a part of Mormonism are the use of divining rods for revelation, astrology to determine the best times to conceive children and plant crops, the study of skull contours to understand personality traits, magic formula utilized to discover lost property, and the wearing of protective talismans".
Early Mormonism and the Magic World View by D Michael Quinn
This account is documented in the B H Roberts history he wrote.
As a Mormon did you know this is how the "Nephite Record" and "Urim and Thummin" were recorded in the Mormon Church history books?
This is info from a standard history book of the Mormon Church:
" "A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." by B.H. Roberts
VOL 1 "How the Book of Mormon was Obtained"
These books are in the LDS Data base on CD, also in their libraries (Ward/Stake/Institute of Religion)in the REFERENCE section.
I own the whole set in paperback which I purchased in the late 70s before they were discontinued.
A few notes:
B H Roberts says that they were dressed "for riding" by taking the horse and spring wagon of Mr. Knight (some would call this stealing, as they did not ask permission of Mr. Knight who was a guest in his home) and went to the "hill Cumorah, and in he presence of Moroni obtained the Nephite record, the breast-plate and Urim and Thummim.
pg. 87, "Early the next morning, Mr. Knight discovered both his horse and wagon were gone, suspected some "rogue had stolen them. Lucy Smith volunteered no information as to Joseph having made use of the horse and wagon, but tried to pacify Mr. Knight with the idea that they were but temporarily out of the way."
When Joseph returned home, he took his mother aside and showed her the Urim and Thummim which he had evidently detached from the breast plate and concealed on his own person when depositing the plates...he seemed to have kept the instrument constantly about him after that time as by means of it he could at will be made aware of approaching danger to the record."
The next chapter is entitled:
pg. 88 Other Psychics Than the Prophet
"The fact was that Joseph Smith was not the only psychic in the vicinity of Palmyra."
He had previously asked Lucy (his mother) very early in the morning if she had a chest with a lock and key but she could not locate one.
This is the reason Joseph pg. 86 "concealed them temporarily, in the woods some two or three miles distant. He found a fallen birch log that was much decayed .....carefully cutting the bark and removing sufficient of the decayed wood to admit ...the plates, ...they were deposited in the cavity, the bark drawn together again and as far as possible all signs of the log having been disturbed obliterated."
Pg 93 - "The Breastplate of Urim and Thummim
"It has been several times remarked that with the plates on which a brief history of the ancient American peoples was engrave, there was an ancient breast-plate to which, when the Prophet took possession of it, the Urim and Thummim were attached.
This breast-plate it appears the Prophet did not bring home with him when he brought the record. But a few days later, according to a statement by Lucy Smith, he came into the house from the field one afternoon and after remaining a a short time put on his "great coat" and left the house.
On his returning the mother was engaged in an upper room of the house preparing oilcloth for painting - it will be remembered that this was an art she has followed for some years. Joseph called to her and asked her to come down stairs. To this she answered she could not then leave her work, but Joseph insisted and she came downstairs and entered the room where he was whereupon he placed in her hands the Nephite breast plate herein alluded to.
'It was wrapped in a a thin muslin handkerchief,' she explains, 'so thin that I could feel it's proportions without any difficulty'. It was concave on one side, convex on the other and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material, for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers (for I measured them). and they had holes in the end of them, to be convenient in fastening. After I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummin."
I highly recommend reading the B H Roberts books. They are filled with things you have never heard in church. The set comes with an Index, which in invaluable also.
It is no wonder these stories have been sanitized into faith promoting versions over the years. The real history is just too wild and crazy to believe! :-)
Most Mormons do not know any of this history. I sure didn't until I found the real church history and one of those account that is too bizarre to use today that is never quoted (just like the crazy stuff in the Bible.)
The power of the psychic and medium today.
We still have psychics and mediums. I would guess that more people believe in these powers than not.
Do psychics/mediums really believe they are talking to the dead or giving messages from the dead? You bet they do.
They are Spiritualist's churches. I have attended them.
What about Joseph Smith Jr?
Did he really think he was inspired and doing God's work? Sure he did. Just like the psychics and mediums today. Some are obvious frauds, doing magic tricks. Some are very sincere.
Or was Joseph Smith doing what psychics and mediums do today and giving the people what they want what they all ready believe?
The most validating part of my experience as a Mormon is that when I first heard the missionary lessons, because of my background in Spiritualism, I was sure Joseph was a medium and that was how he came up with his claims.
But, that was a taboo notion in Mormonism.
Imagine my great surprise to find out over 40 years later (after I left he Mormon Church) that he was known as a psychic in Palmyra at the time and it is documented in the original church history compiled by B H Roberts!
Joseph Smith Jr did what people were doing before him and are still doing: psychics and mediums presenting their information in the name of God, some starting churches.
Sylvia Browne comes to mine. I consider her in the same category as Joseph Smith in many ways, writing books, starting a church. Does she think she is doing magic tricks or is lying or is a fraud? I don't think so.
Some personal experiences that played into the easy in joining Mormonism.
Growing up I had many experience living in a household that felt spirits
and saw spirits in the house -- yard -- in the car, and on and on.
I can recount dozens of these kinds of experiences.
My grandpa had a painting by his room that he claimed the spirits added little drawings to. We would scan the painting looking for spirit paintings. He always found something "new" or something they were "working" on.
I don't know how all that happens within the human mind. I just know that people who are expecting to see or hear spirits, have a belief in them, very often hear and see them. Those are the ones that are shared, repeated, etc. Occasionally, people are interviewed that didn't hear or feel or see a thing! It is my view that those are the majority.
Everything that happened in our household could be connected to spirits and their influence.
One of the fist stories they told about me was that I was "rocked to sleep by spirits" in my cradle!
If something could not be found, it was because a spirit moved it. For instance, if a pear fell off the treat at night and hit the house, it was Uncle Roy (deceased!) teasing us or giving us a message.
If there were shadows or sounds in the household, it was spirits.
When I was a young girl, probably under four, I came in the house and described a man in the neighbor's back yard. Because of my description, the family was sure it was my great grandpa who had died right before I was born.
I had pretend, imaginary playmates that they claimed were little spirits that kept me company as I was an only child for several years, in a household of adults and no children in the neighborhood.
I sat in hundreds of seances, mostly in our home. I also attended spiritualist meetings outside the home.We were told the names of our special guides and how they helped us.
What do I think that was all about?
It's a belief system that is still held by Spiritualists.
Because of my life-experiences, and lots of practice (I know the patterns for cold readings) , naturally, can do them also!.
Watch Lisa Williams on TV (her show was produced by Merv Griffin before he died) -- she is one of the best that shows how the cold reading works. Watch how she asks a question, then verifies the answer, embellishes the answer and repeats it depending on the person's responses. These are highly emotional settings, and it is not hard to "read" the person's responses. The best readings are done for the believers, not the skeptics. They are more likely to recall the "hits" and be impressed.
Rarely do people keep track of the misses. They are looking for the validation of the hits, only.
There is a show on TV that is a contest of psychics. That one is fun to watch also. There are haunted house shows on TV, and psychic detectives. It is hard to know exactly how good they are, and how much they know or help as the purpose of the program is to show the success.
It is not hard to claim to be a ghost hunter, take a bunch of special equipment and test places in a building and claim that there is a spirit there -- with names, and stories to go with it especially if there is no way to valid the claims.
Some of the best audiences for psychics are Mormons. I have watched shows done in SLC for instance.
And so, it goes on!
| "An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton."
So often active LDS, even the thinkers, doubt anything in church history that is negative. If you suggest they read "No man knows my history" the response will be it is just an interpretation of Joseph Smiths life. "In Sacred Lonliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith" will be considered by the LDS skeptic as a "selective history" and not the full truth.
But this amazing book, is just a journal. The Journal of a loyal scribe of Joseph Smith. And it reads like a novel. Everyone on this board would love it. When William Clayton reaches Nauvoo, and gets into the heirarchy of the church, it becomes a soap opera and touches on many of those subjects no one ever learns in church. For instance.
Clayton takes multiple wives, and Joseph tells him to keep it a secret only for the elect to know about. He dreams about having sex with a 16 year old girl, then writes in his journal that he would essentially do anything for God if he can have her. He is already married to multiple women at this point. Thereafter he meets a 16 year old, marries her, and then goes to her house and "prospers" according to one short entry. His wife is pissed. He writes about how upset she is all the time. His wife wants to go off with another man. He writes in one entry that she is angry and "it gives me a headache." How touching. He speaks to Heber C. Kimball about his problem with his wife. Another guy is interested in his wife. He and Heber and they discuss how only the man of a higher priesthood can take a wife of a man with lower priesthood. He speaks to his wife, and explains that she cannot go off and marry some other guy, because he has not cheated on her. His marriages are legitimate.
He describes the endowment. It appears that it was more of a bath of oil than an annointing. But again, the polygamous stuff is scandelous, and allover the place. He went to speak to Emma after Joseph's death. Emma of course wants all of Joseph's property and is in a power strugggle to get it from Brigham Young and the 12. Clayton threatens her saying that he has information that she does not want let out. See, Emma knew about Joseph's fooling around in the name of polygamy, and she threatened and apparently tried to get revenge by seeking out other men for herself.
It is very ugly. Now, it is also full of info about his conversion, his travel to America, and eventually the trip across the plains. But that is a very good read as well. It is not boring.
So what could a member say? Here is a first hand account of a man who spoke to Joseph and reported about it repeatedly. From the book, the church clearly resembles the FLDS much more than the LDS church. It describes how Sidney Rigdon and BY fight for control of the church. Competing revelations about what should happen. It was a mess.
Just a thought. As you can tell, I loved the book.
| I’m going to call the author “GDS” so as not to confuse him with “Smith.” I have a fuzzy recollection of meeting, or at least seeing, GDS years ago at a Dialogue or Sunstone conference shortly after we moved to the Bay Area. I don’t know what GDS’s status is re the church, but I assume that he is exmormon. I read a blog comment (can’t remember which one) that referred to GDS as “an early 1990s grumper.”
Nauvoo Polygamy is an excellent reference book, but I have to subtract points for readability. His writing style is plain with much repetition, but perhaps he intended it to be so–something like an encyclopedia–but not as well organized. Happily, the footnotes are at the bottom of each page, saving the reader a lot of time in not having to flip back and forth to endnotes. He relies a lot on Compton, Quinn, van Wagoner, Carmon Hardy etc. Although he covers the same time and place as Compton, Bushman, and others, GDS intended this book to be a supplement to published biographies and histories.
In chapters two and three he goes through Smith’s accumulation of wives, including when he met them, how he courted them, and whatever information can be found on the marriages. He dismisses Fanny Alger as an adulterous affair and gives some evidence that Smith was involved with another young woman, Eliza Winters. While Smith had plural marriage on the mind in the 1830s, GDS doesn’t think he began actually taking wives until after 1840.
In later chapters GDS considers the admission of other men into the secret circle that Smith was creating, an interlocking family binding relationship through the elite of Nauvoo. He has many charts and lists along the way to help the reader keep track of the marriages. (550 pages of text, lists and charts account for some of this.)
Neither Joseph nor his scribes kept a record of the marriages, but reading between the lines and looking at diaries and other records, GDS reconstructs the record. William Clayton might have written something like: “Went to XX’s farm with Joseph in afternoon.” From a diary or letter Smith figures out what Clayton didn’t go on to say, that a plural marriage or conjugal visit took place. I’m sure apologists will pounce on this “reading between the lines”. These marriages were later “resealed” in the Nauvoo temple and the records survive.
In Chapter 7, “A Silenced Past,” GDS goes through the events that led to the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. He places the blame on polygamy and on Smith’s arrogance in dealing with the Nauvoo Expositor. Contrary to Dallin Oak’s analysis of the legality of the “nuisance abatement,” GDS says the destruction was contrary to constitutional and legal safeguards. Following the destruction, with multiple arrest warrants being dismissed on habeas corpus in Nauvoo, JS called together the Nauvoo legion and rode around town, making threats and showing off. This led to the charge of treason that ultimately led to Smith being detained in Carthage jail.
He also details the lies that JS kept repeating about polygamy. Joseph Smith was a liar. Period. GDS also presents a sympathetic portrait of Jane and William Law, two characters that I was raised to believe were wicked and evil. Law tried to get Smith to abandon his disastrous course, but Smith wouldn’t listen and ousted Law and his wife, along with others who questioned.
Here are a few things I didn’t know:
Smith knew many of his wives for years before marrying them. Often they were young girls who lived in the Smith home (of course we’ve heard of the Partridge and Lawrence sisters.) He was often in the home of friends who had young daughters, and at times hiding out spent weeks there. He knew a couple from age 5 and 7–the latter was Helen Mar Kimball. Reading this made me feel queasy. The man had years to earn the confidence of these girls and their families, charm them, then let them in on a wonderful “secret.” (The guy was definitely a sexual predator–GDS doesn’t say as much.)
I didn’t know that those in plural marriages were entered into a Quorum of the Anointed.
Because of the denials of Emma and Joseph Smith, in 1869 Joseph F. Smith went around and collected affidavits of women who had been sealed to his uncle Joseph, creating a record. In 1892 the RLDS and Hedrickites got into a lawsuit over the Temple Lot in Missouri. The Utah church had an interest in keeping the lot out of the hands of the RLDS, so although not a party to the lawsuit, the LDS provided evidence of plural wives based on these earlier statements, and also collected testimony from more witnesses.
After the Smoot hearings the Mormon church tried to put the practice of polygamy behind them, but in the mid-20th century researchers and historians began uncovering the true facts.
Why did nubile young women, or older married women, fall under Smith’s spell? Smith carefully cultivated his little flock. “Women found a sense of elite belonging when Smith invited them to join the secret religious order he had started among the high-ranking priesthood men. This Quorum of the Anointed was the repository of the secrets of plural marriage.” pp 390-1 Those drawn into celestial marriage sincerely believed Smith was a prophet and believe in his version of the afterlife.
The last chapter in the book is “Antecedents and Legacy.” GDS goes through the history of polygamy, spending a lot of time on Henry the 8th and the Anabaptists of Munster. I plodded through it, but the book would be much better with a condensed version. And of course, we have the legacy–the Fundamentalists.
While the Mormons were relatively safe from the public’s disapproval in 1852 Utah, the public announcement had a devastating effect abroad. European Mormons “were astonished and repelled.” British membership declined 50% in the 1850s, some of this from emigration, but baptismal rates plummeted by 88%.
The short index is not complete. The bibliography is a good starting place for a reader beginning a journey through early Mormon history.
Unlike most historical or biographical works I read, GDS doesn’t include any acknowledgements to those who read or reviewed his manuscript. The book would have been much improved with editing, critical suggestions for improvement, and some cutting. I hope he issues another edition because despite its faults, it’s a valuable book.
| Has anyone else noticed that mormons are really willing to help other mormons, but that most other people are deemed unworthy of help (unless they are golden prospects)?
We were even treated to another mormons-helping-mormons story during the debate last night:
Ryan added yet one more story to the list of "proving Romney is human" stories. It was yet another tale of Romney helping a fellow mormon.
Yep, that's right, we still have NO tales of Romney helping human beings who are NOT mormon.
[Paul Ryan speaking] This is a guy who I was talking to a family in Northborough, Massachusetts the other day, Sheryl and Mark Nixon. Their kids were hit in a car crash, four of them. Two of them, Rob and Reed, were paralyzed. The Romneys didn't know them. They went to the same church; they never met before.
Mitt asked if he could come over on Christmas. He brought his boys, his wife, and gifts. Later on, he said, "I know you're struggling, Mark. Don't worry about their college. I'll pay for it."
When Mark told me this story, because, you know what, Mitt Romney doesn't tell these stories. The Nixons told this story. When he told me this story, he said it wasn't the help, the cash help. It's that he gave his time, and he has consistently.
This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined. Mitt Romney's a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. [end excerpt of Ryan speaking.]
The Nixons are mormons. That makes them worthy of Romney's help.
How to navigate:
- Click the subject below to go directly to the article.
- Click the blue arrow on the article to return to the top.
- Right-Click and copy the "-Guid-" (the Link Location URL) for a direct link to the page and article.
|Articles posted here are © by their respective owners when designated. |
Website © 2005-2021
Compiled With: Caligra 1.119