Monday, 19 January 2009

"Mormonism is whack".

Disclaimer: This post might be boring if you're not interested in cultural practices and theology. Sorry for length.

As I mentioned before, this area of Alberta, and particularly my workplace, contain a high proportion of Mormons. Mormonism isn't something I really knew anything before I came here (and indeed I don't know much about it now), but we've been researching it over the last week or so (admittedly, through the often unreliable means of the internet). Here's a brief background to Mormonism:

Mormonism was "started" by a man called Joseph Smith who claimed God and Jesus came to him when he was praying in the forest and asked him to restore Christianity (the insinuation being that it had been corrupted by its existing churches). They told him to translate The Book of Mormon, which until then, had been recorded on gold plates which were given to Smith by an angel. The Book of Mormon coexists with the Bible - both are believed by Mormons. For Mormons, both God and Jesus are (were?) physical human beings, like you and I. As with other forms of Christianity, God is the father of Jesus, however, for Mormons, Jesus is the product of his physical relationship with Mary (does it sound weird yet?). Mormons believe that they can become like Gods (although not REPLACE God). Obviously, this can only happen if they practise doctrine faithfully.

The Book of Mormon is generally regarded to have serious factual errors. For starters, the plates on which it was allegedly written were meant to have been in the ground before the King James Bible was completed (1611). Despite this, the Book of Mormon repeatedly plagiarises the King James Bible (and it's not possible for the King James Bible to be ripping off the Book of Mormon, since it was written before the plates were found and translated...although I guess the overlaps could just be evidence that both are correct and true words of God...). The Book of Mormon also points to other impossibilities; elephants existing where they don't, advanced metal-making techniques apparently occurring in 400AD...

There's also some racism kicking about, with the Mormon church teaching until recently that all black people were cursed, and that they shouldn't be allowed to enter Mormon temples. However, there was a turnaround in the 1970s when the church's tax-exempt status was threatened by the Government (considering the time frame, it's not surprising that the state wanted to try and eradicate institutionalised racism). In 1978, the church received a new revelation from God that discrimination against African-Americans should come to an end...and thus it's remained a non-profit, tax-exempt organisation (convenient timing...?)

And some notes on cultural beliefs and lifestyle: Mormonism contains a dietary code which requires abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs; caffeinated soft drinks are left to individual discretion. Polygamy used to be practiced, although Mormons will now be excommunicated if found to have multiple wives (from what I've read though, it does still go on, infrequently and illegally). They should give 10% of their earnings to the church by means of tithing, although it seems to be maintained that this is a personal choice, not a's just that everyone chooses it. There are some other practices and beliefs which don't seem set in stone; you shouldn't marry non-Mormons, women can only achieve salvation through their husbands, those having homosexual relations will be excommunicated, you shouldn't read or expose yourself to anything criticising the Mormon church...I read that the reason the Wikipedia account of Mormonism is so objective because it is frequently updated and altered by Mormons. Try reading it; if you Google 'Mormons' or 'Mormonism', it's pretty much the only non-critical entry that comes up. The internet is full of damning articles about Mormonism being a cult. This probably explains why my account here comes across as biased. It's impossible to ascertain any kind of evidence on Mormonism. I know this is true of all religions; that's the whole point of faith, right? And I'll admit that everything I've written above only seems strange to me because it's new and different. If I remove yourself from the fact that I've been exposed to ("standard") Christianity since I was a kid, some of that sounds pretty unbelievable too. Really, it's no stranger to think of God and Mary having sex than it is to discuss an immaculate conception (apologies if I just blasphemed).

So, I know I sound judgemental (but when do I not...?), and I know a lot of what I've written is probably not 100% accurate. But let's summarise, shall we...this religion appears to be based on a very strange and unlikely theology. Is it a cult? Well, according to every dictionary definition ever, a cult is "a particular system of religious worship". Therefore, not only is Mormonism a cult, but so is every other religion in the world. I think that makes things a little clearer, don't you?

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