Monday, January 21, 2013

Mormonism: Scrutinized, but Not Understood

After Romney lost the Presidency I thought most major reporting on Mormonism would be gone. For the most part it is, but there were a few last shots left. One came from NPR called Mormonism: A Scrutinized, Yet Evolving Faiththat seemed to continue the misunderstandings and mistakes. Most of it is arguable at best.

Despite going to the trouble of quoting three Mormons who should know better, there isn't much truth to the story. Each example of what the article is trying to demonstrate is far more complicated than the quick explanations. It is best to number the problems for easier reference.

1. "For example, even most Mormon scholars agree there's no archaeological evidence that Jews came to America in 600 B.C., as Joseph Smith claimed, or that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Mo." It would be nice to know the other point of view of those "not most" scholars who do see evidence. Better yet, its never been discussed what Mormon apologist who believe the Book of Mormon (or Jackson County, Mo. as Garden of Eden) as a true history use to uphold that position. Its as if they don't exist (not even the dated, but eminently important Hugh Nibley or active Daniel Peterson).

2. Enough already with the Kolob where God is supposed to live. NO its NOT where He lives, but near where He lives. There is a vast difference between the two statements with very specific theological implications. At least quoteThe Book of Abraham where it comes from. Of course, the Mormon who is quoted doesn't help much assuming the article correctly paraphrases him. I have to give the report at least partial excuse.

3. "The most notable shift in Mormonism lately is in its branding to appear as just another branch of Christianity." Um no, at least without some serious counter arguments. The reason for the commercials is to show Mormons are your neighbors. Not many of the commercials even acknowledge they are Christians so much as Mormons (my personal criticism of the ads).

4. The example of "What you do is just as important as what you believe" is horribly unproductive even if the Mormon is quoted. Gossip and scandalous is not the same as sin or damnation. There could have been a great short discussion of the intersection between Faith and Works in Mormonism, but it ends up TMZ. Remember the coffee ice cream Romney story a while back for instance?

5. The worst offense I have for last, because what the report sets out to show ends up not showing it at all. Why? Because the idea is that Mormon theology changes and evolves. Never mind begging the question from what to what the evolutionary path is supposed to take. The examples are of practices and not doctrines. polygamy? Still in the Doctrine and Covenants and is expected to continue in the afterlife if not in mortality. African-American men to become priests? Was done in Joseph Smith's time in the 1830s, and a few in Brigham Young's with the theology to explain why mostly after the fact. Condemn contraception? Recent development during the sexual revolution, and never designated a sin so much as a warning it could devalue the command to procreate (that is still an active theology by the way). Kolob? see above. The one that got away from the reporter would be the Kingdom theology mentioned in the last quote. Now there is a Mormon theology that did evolve (devolve?) and become mostly spiritual.

These are mostly notes that could be expanded for each subject. What Mormonism is or teaches isn't always the cut and dry stereotypes deployed by detractors, scholars, or reporters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These days just about all reporting is full of errors, falsehoods, lies, etc. No one takes pride in anything anymore. The more sensational the better because more people will read it.
And what is really sad is people believe everything they read and/or hear, and don't do any investigating to find out for themselves what is correct and what isn't.
But also it is hard to find what is correct/true concerning certain subjects, like politics.