Monday, June 18, 2007

Stir it Up

Finding a Handle

My cBFF A. doesn't like to be identified by her name and I understand that. I also like to ridicule it from time to time. Over the last months, I've toyed with an assortment of handles for her: She Who Will Not Be Named, My Little Brown Friend, The Wee One are all contenders. I'm thinking WeeSheBrown. But that's not really that funny. Any help?

Making Trouble
Things have gotten too quiet, too friendly in blogworld. Time to throw off the gloves and make things interesting. We shall think about this: Mormonism and the United States.

I have had a number of good friends who are Mormon. They are nice people. As individuals, I've nothing against Mormons. As an organization, however, I think we should all be very concerned about their growth and assimilation. Note here---I'm totally a live and let live kind of girl. There are virtually no issues confronting this generation that I can not express my preference for with my vote and I believe we should all do just that. Anything which is not open to the democratic process I mostly don't get riled about---its your thing, just don't impinge on mine....

I first became really interested in the Mormons while reading Shot In the Heart by Mikal Gilmore. In the telling of Gary Gilmore's crime and execution in 1976, much background is provided on that church as Gilmore's victims were members; some of Gilmores' family were as well. As it happens, those early church leaders had some pretty wacky ideas. Among them were notions of celestial marriage (eg, g*d wants you to have many wives), baptism of the dead, perfect obedience.

I will be candid and say that I'm not much on churches of any kind. A skeptic, a cynic, an "empiricist". I'm not sure where I heard it but recently someone said, "if you are an empiricist, you've no business delving into religious texts of any kind; the disciplines are fundamentally opposed." And I would agree with that. The central premises of all religions have to do with faith and miracles--- those things make me cringe. And perhaps I'm the lesser person for it, and perhaps I'm comitting myself to eternal damnation; that would be the call of the faithful and divine. I actually rather envy those who find genuine comfort in those ideas, those who have faith. I simply do not.

The early Mormon leaders were all about insulating themselves from the larger world, establishing a theocracy among believers. Not only did they work to eliminate the influences of other idealogues, they also sought to conceal their beliefs and practices from non-believers. Such insulation is the hallmark of organizational wrong-doing.

Members are prevailed upon to practice "perfect obedience" -- that is, to follow the instructions of the leadership without question even when they are known to be wrong. Such obedience has been cited as the vehicle for the Mountain Meadows Massacre and for countless murders of members running afoul of the practices and teachings of the church.

Having read Shot in the Heart, watched PBS feature "The Mormons" (full content available online!) and researched a fair bit, it wasn't difficult for me to arrive at the conclusion that the leadership of the Mormon church does indeed hold as its primary objective the displacement of our government in favor of a theocracy of Mormonism. I come to this based on the following:

  • early desire to hold Utah seperate from United States
  • embrace of aggressive growth strategies (plural marriage = maximum childbearing; mission requirement; restriction of contraception; inclusion of non-members in church rolls via baptism of the dead)
  • Institutionalized accumulation of land holdings and money
  • Institutionalized accumulation of community and personal caches of sustaining supplies (food, cash, etc)
  • Elevation of devotion to church over family or government
  • Maintenance of dedicated militia

To me, this gives the appearance of a group of people prepared to emerge from any crisis unscathed and powerful or one prepared to isolate/remove themselves from the world around them. It is indeed a documented fact that the Mormon settlers in Utah would not recognize or adhere to US laws which ran against their religious principles. As the church has evolved there's been a recognition that the church can not survive if it disregards the laws of this Country and there has been at least superficial acquiescence of some ideals. Despite the fact that Mormon temples are now found in a great many places, the continued concentration in the Western United States, particularly Utah, is troubling to me.

This calls to mind the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney. I don't believe any person could just take the oath of office and undo 230+ years of democratic development but given the LDS requirement of perfect obedience and their very strong business relationships, their land-holding, I think that having an LDS member serving the Executive branch is opening the door to much more Mormon influence than I would like to see in our government.

I do not believe most LDS members would recognize any larger objective of their leaders or church. I do, however, believe that the organization is made up of followers who will put into action almost any instruction of the leadership.

For those who haven't, I'd recommend reading Shot in the Heart. After all, its more a book about capital punishment than anything else. I have clear recollections of the hubub surrounding Gilmore's execution as the first post-Furman execution in 1976. As it happened my family was driving cross-country that summer and in the midst of Utah while it was all going down. Those radio broadcasts in our hot Ford van speeding through the desert are strongly imprinted in my memory. The book does a great job of exploring the practice of capital punishment and has lots of insight to offer regardless of your position on the issue...


Lyman said...

Mormon you say? Do I have a link for you!

Kathy said...

The clip won't load but I checked out a bunch of her other Mormon stuff... cree-eeee-ppy!

Special K said...

Oooooh - you should rent HBO's Big Love!

Don said...

"I do not believe most LDS members would recognize any larger objective of their leaders or church. I do, however, believe that the organization is made up of followers who will put into action almost any instruction of the leadership."

I believe the same could be said for most of our representatives in Washington in both the Democrat and Republican parties, which in my mind makes them just as dangerous.

Kathy said...

And I might add to that the Libertarians.... you are correct; following any leader blindly is a hazard for the larger society.