Most LDS members are not from the United States. The church’s leadership and practices are another story.
The new year was rung in with the surprising news of a small militia occupying a federal building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, deep in rural Oregon. Armed protestors, calling themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, have called on the U.S. government to reverse policies dealing with public lands that they consider unconstitutional. The group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, a confessing Mormon, said they would remain there until they “restore the land and resources to the people so people across the country can begin thriving again.”
In discussions of poverty’s ills and cures, it doesn’t take long for the subject of root causes to come up. Not everyone agrees what those root causes are, of course—or whose fault they are. But it’s often taken for granted that you can’t just tackle a presenting problem directly; you have to go for the root, whatever it is. This certainly isn’t always wrong, but it does have a way of obscuring simple, obvious solutions.
One cold afternoon in 1975 in a small rented bedroom in Antwerp, the young Mormon missionary Craig Harline (Elder Harline in Mormon parlance) had a faith crisis—though it is not quite right to call it that.
Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a black Mormon pioneer, was known to some Latter-day Saints historians in the latter part of the 20th century but was hardly a household name. Linda King Newell and Valerie Tippets Avery wrote the first well-researched article about Jane in LDS Church publication The Ensign. Subsequent Mormon authors focused on the early years of Jane’s life, particularly on founder Joseph Smith accepting her and her family into his home.
The musical The Book of Mormon portrays two naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda proclaiming that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” The joke isn’t mere whimsy; the LDS Church is widely perceived as racist. The irony is that had the church followed its initial trajectory, by now it likely would have become the most racially integrated and progressive church in America.
Twilight and Big Love explore something most romantic dramas have forgotten: the pleasures of moral struggle for the sake of spiritual growth.
When people who don’t know a lot about American Christianity hear that I am Mennonite, they sometimes ask if it’s the same as being Mormon. No, I say, and add a stock reply: other than starting with the same letter of the alphabet and being inscrutable to outsiders, the groups are quite different. After reading Joanna Brooks’s memoir The Book of Mormon Girl, I will no longer answer with such alacrity.
The great newish online journal Religion & Politics alerted me to the fact that today is the anniversary of JFK's speech to the Houston ministers.
Romney's faith, like Obama's, is distinctly American yet often misunderstood. And campaigns are rarely an occasion to increase understanding.
The LDS canon's four books carry equal weight of authority. All are read as historical witnesses to God's promise of salvation.
It has become fashionable to narrate the lives of books. Paul Gutjahr offers a brief and readable account of the Book of Mormon's history.
The 19th-century Mormon kingdom emphasized the common good. Later came a shift toward personal morality as the mark of saintliness.
So a pro-Romney Super PAC planned to focus on Jeremiah Wright--you know, because those decontextualized clips of a black pastor sounding angry didn't get played on the news enough last time around--but quickly changed its tune based on Romney's unenthusiastic response. Then a pro-Obama Super PAC clarified that it won't be going after Mormonism, and David Axelrod agreed. I'm certainly glad to be spared a barrage of prime-time crap about how black liberationists hate America (and even say "damn" about it!) on the one hand and about polygamy and special underwear on the other. But note this news story's assumptions.
"Between now and Election Day," writes Peter Beinart, "anti-Mormonism is going to be the Democratic Party’s constant temptation for one simple reason: there are votes in it." I'm not sure I'd call it the party's "constant temptation," but Beinart is certainly right that bigotry against Mormons remains a politically potent force in the U.S., and that the Democrats aren't above exploiting it. But is Beinart right that the Democrats have a bigger religious bigotry problem here than the Republicans do?