Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reasons Mormons Stand Alone

There has been talk that 2008 was a bad year for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its image. To many it was a self-inflicted image because of the political stands it took and history. True as that may be, Mormonism has almost never had good press coverage or widespread respect. Perhaps the closet to a good reputation was during the era between 1950 and the first years of the 1960s when the forced Americanization of Mormonism coincided with wide spread U.S. patriotism and conservative spirit. That window of time was short lived and perhaps illusory. Radical social and political liberalization quickly took over. What remained was the LDS Church standing in the crosshairs of a culture war. It was left again where it started in the 18th Century. The conservative religious considered Mormonism a blasphemy and secularists an affront to human progress and logic.

The conservative antagonists to Mormonism are often religious theocrats who see anyone with different beliefs than themselves as doomed to eternal punishment. Christians are not alone in this view. To deviate from dogma is a worse sin than moral failings. Mormons are seen as the enemy because no matter how good a person is, the differences are too much for any respect. For many Christians, Mormonism's questioning of dogmatism and focus on works as an important aspect of spirituality is despicable. Faith in the correct beliefs are of the utmost importance. To believe anything more or less than exact dogma is to be evil.

Having a belief in Priesthood that governs and leads, rather than simply informs is another thorn in many Christian's sides. Similar to secularists, Protestants question authority and reject it except as a loose influence. Interesting enough, for years Catholics were kept out of the political process by Protestant gatekeepers for many of the same reasons. An overwhelming number of Catholics have forced a grudging respect on the Republican conservative Protestant base. It remains an uneasy reliance. Regardless of what chances Romney might have lost because of a dislike for Mormons, it is just as unlikely a Catholic could become a Republican U.S. Presidential contender. Nevertheless, the numbers and a respectable balance of traditional Christian dogma that Protestants inherited gives them an equal amount of room to ostracize Mormons.

Liberals are no less problematic for Mormons because they hold different metaphysical views about G-d and religion. Strict secularists hold even less similarities. Morals are seen as universals based on human relations rather than any set of doctrinal justifications. There is no right and wrong other than treating others with respect and social justices as they define the terms. Since there is no authority (other than a tolerant G-d by the liberal religious) then science and logic become the ultimate determiners of Truth. For the secularist liberal what cannot be proven in physical life must be rejected. Mormonism posits that truth and moral ism is more than what can be proved, but is centered on faith and Church authority. Often the only difference between the conservative religious criticisms of Mormonism and the secularists is tradition and a Holy book.

Strangely, since both conservative religious and Western liberalism both believe morals and authority are of secondary considerations, both view Mormonism as "cultic." It is an anti-papist sentiment shared by Christian and Secularist alike aimed at anyone who proclaims they have divine authority. This is exacerbated by the Mormon history of continual revelation, visions, miracles, new Scripture and Prophets. All of these have been rationally rejected as a sign of delusion. The religious say G-d no longer speaks words openly and the secularist that there never was a divine voice. To paraphrase one secularist, Mormonism doesn't allow for easy metaphorical re-interpretation. The foundational doctrinal history and Scriptures are too grounded in literalism. A culture built around the idea "G-d is dead" or at least silent is scandalized by one that continues to insist prophets exist that can declare "That He lives."

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