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Mormons Rock

An article in Newsweek by Walter Kirn on June 5, 2011, called “Mormons Rock” discusses the “Mormon moment” initiated by the Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who have become so prominent in public life.  From the Osmonds to Mitt Romney, Mormons are “out there.”  Kirn complains a little about Romney’s and Jon Huntsman’s choice not to discuss their religious beliefs any more than they have to.  Kirn feels that they could dispel many misperceptions if they were more open about their religion.

Pew Study on Mormons in AmericaAs usual, the article’s description of Mormon theology uses tone and vocabulary that make Latter-day Saints–Mormons– (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) sound pretty weird, indeed.  In this, Kirn is part of the problem without even realizing it.  Though he grants that Mormons excel  because of their theology, and invites Romney and Huntsman to clarify doctrine, he describes Mormon theology in terms that would make even Mormons cringe.

Cases in point? Kirn’s allusion to “special underpants, magic spectacles.”  Mormons wear a symbolic religious garment under their clothing, just as Orthodox Jews where the tzitzit under theirs.  Special religious clothing is found in virtually every religion on the earth.  They are sacred and represent covenants with God. Why give this aspect of Mormon faith such disrespect, then?  “Magic spectacles” refer to the Urim and Thummim, mentioned in many places in the Bible, and they have always been part of the Israelite religion.  Why is something that was revered when Moses and Aaron had possession of it, derided today?

In the meantime, anti-Mormonism is hitting a new peak, and everyone seems willing to tolerate it, when they definitely wouldn’t, if it were any other religion.  Another case in point is the Book of Mormon musical winning awards on Broadway.  It is obscene and slanderous from beginning to end, but the critics love it, and there is hardly a voice of dissent.  Had this sort of material been staged with Judaism as its theme, the same critics would hearken back to the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany and roundly condemn the production.

In these ways, Kirn is not helping Mormons be understood.  But he has landed on some important points:

  • The doctrines and practices of Mormonism can generalize to public life and bear success — David Neeleman’s business practices; Stephenie Meyer’s restrained characters; Stephen Covey’s social and organizational concepts.
  • The doctrines and practices of Mormonism make Mormons good citizens.

Kirn discerns that “it is [Mormons’] distinctiveness that is influencing the broader culture.”  Mormons are leaders, because their religion makes them successful, and they lead by teaching correct principles and then allowing the people they lead to govern themselves (the philosophy of founder Joseph Smith, which relies on the God-given gift of free agency).

To read the Newsweek article, “Mormons Rock,” click here.

KSL News responds to the Newsweek article.

Meanwhile, Evangelical Warren Cole Smith wrote an article that called any Mormon unfit to serve.  Head of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Michael Otterson, answered that article in the Washington Post.  To read it, click here.

Additional Resources:

Learn about Mormons at the official site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon Church”).

The Book of Mormon is a sacred text similar to the Bible. Request a free copy today.

Attend a local meetinghouse and gain your own perspective on Mormons.

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