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Evangelicals, Mormons, and wise Turks

Aside from reminding us of a very clever Lutherism, this piece on Mitt and the evangelicals doesn’t cover much new ground. But it ought to lead conservative Christians to the conclusion that there might actually be less theological distance between them and the Mormons than between them and certain sorts of liberal Christians. In other words, the closeness in moral stance and social policy isn’t the only sort of closeness between conservative or theologically orthodox Christians and Mormons.

Discussions - 16 Comments

"Closeness in moral stance and social policy" is what should matter. The rest is navel-gazing.

This is complete goofiness. The Mormon religion is not nearly as stable as Christianity. The re-revelate core parts of their dogma whenever it socially is fitting. (They canned polygamy to join the Union, and when racism became unpopular in the 70's they finally allowed black priests because of "changing social conditions.") This is not really a religion. Strictly speaking Mormonism bends quite easily to the whims of the world's morality--Just like Mitt easily bends to the whims of the political landscape.

I agree with Clint. Mormonism always reminded me of Rastafari, just without the pot (they both take interesting interpretations of the Bible and mix them with some cult personality somewhere and call it the "right" religion). And it's my opinion that if you can't make a weird, pseudo-Christianity sub-religion incorporate pot into its dogma, then there isn't much point. Heh.

You are a little tough on the Rastafarians. They did not mix "some cult personality" with an unorthodox interpretation of Scripture. Rastafari mixes the black nationalism of Marcus Garvey, a sort of "hadith" like tradition of sayings attributed to Garvey, and Protestant Christianity.

Because of the large number of Indian merchants present in Jamaica - it was part of the Empire after all - two Indian ideas also became incorporated. The first was the use of the "Kali weed" - marijuana - to obtain a meditative state. The second is the avatar concept - that idea in Hinduism that God will take on different forms to accomplish diverse purposes in different ages. Around the time of the 50th anniversary of the only Black monarch in an independent African country - Halie Selassie - some Jamaicans combined this avatar idea with a prophecy Garvey supposedly made about an African King. Thus Ras Tafari Makonnen - whose regnant title was His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God - was transmuted into Jah Rastafari, an incarnation of God. This is why Rod Taylor sang, "King David, he was a black man, King Solomon, he was a black man, King Moses, he was a black man." and also, "Jah oh Jah Rastafari, Emperor Haile Selassie I" Avatars, black nationalism, and Christian scripture are all combine in these verses.

For the record, the Emperor was appalled and sent to his Jamaican adherents a group of Ethiopian Orthodox missionaries. The "Orthodox" branch of Rastafari are Ethiopian Orthodox Christians who view the Emperor as a martyr saint (murdered by the Communists). Most other "Mansions" of Rastafari the progressively more seperatist, Twelve Tribes of Israel, Nyahbinghi, and Bobo Ashanti, continue to take the view that Selassie is God.

Wow, thanks. So you think it's better than Mormonism too, huh?

Yeah . . . they took some interesting interpretations of Scripture (Garvey), added some cult personality (first black, independent king - Selassie), added some weed (which, I think, they actually smoke during Bible studies . . . which is pretty cool, you have to admit) and made a religion.

I know there are different takes on it (it's much more of a personalized "find your own faith" thing than Mormonism), but I'm talking about Bob Marley, hyped-up, famous Rastafari. :) The kind where you think Marley was a prophet and take the view that Selassie is God. That's a lot cooler than the Orthodox kind (and it's also the only kind I've ever really had personal access to). I never was trying to be tough on Rastafari. I just called 'em "weird." Thanks for all the info, though.

Well, this is the first time I have heard us Mormons compared with Rastafarians -- apparently to the advantage of the Rastafarians. I grant you that the LDS understanding of continuing revelation gives doctrine a certain ... suppleness. We don't finally believe in the insuperable finality of any comprehensive, systematic doctrinal statement; we are not a religion of theologians. Let's say, provisionally, that we are committed to orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy (though the distinction can only be taken so far, I grant you). (In any case, the practice of polygamy, which I suppose has never exactly been repudiated in principle, but only -- very definitively -- in practice, is arguably closer to the heart of Mormonism than the exclusion of blacks from the priesthood. The revision of this latter point -- which I trust you welcome as much as I do -- really didn't require much doctrinal adjustment.)

Also, there is a very solid commitment to certain historical events: The birth to the virgin Mary of Christ, the Son of God, his crucifixion and resurrection, and yes, his appearance to a remnant of Israel in the New World, a record of which was translated by Joseph Smith. I take it you don't accept all these claims, but they have been very constant in LDS belief. Have you been getting your information on Mormonism from the New Republic and Alan Wolfe?
Moreover, on the question of constancy, I'm willing to stack my correligionists up against any denomination you choose in firmness on some of the basic moral issues of our day: let's touch base in 20 years on the gay marriage issue, and see where Mormons stand in comparison with other Christians.

I did not mean to imply any "advantage" or insult. I just think that the "cool runnings" stereotype of the Rastafarians is unfair.

And I didn't mean to imply that any religion was more "right" than any other. Mormons or Rastafari - all I was saying was that while they are both similar, I wanted to make the humorous point that the Rastafari's smoke pot, so I would more quickly join their ranks than those of the Mormons (of course, I would probably already be high if I took any interest in becoming a member of these or any number of other organized religions).

So, apologies. I didn't mean to create this awkward (yet interesting) conversation.

"Red, Red wine......."

"Stay close to me........"

Have to say I'm impressed by WM's brief historical overview of the origins of the Rastafarians.

Just another case of learning something new every day."

Ralph is perfectly right that the Mormons are more (sensibly) firm of the great moral issues of the day that the rest of us. And from a political view, as David Frisk says, that's the only thing that should interest us. Otherwise, we'll have to start a separate thread (combined with numerous reading assignments) on the depths of Mormon belief, ritual, and so forth--which would, in fact, be a wonderful "learning experience."

thanks Dan! I get these obsessive interests, then I start reading and reading... I am a dork

No, Peter and David are flat out wrong that Mormons have more sensible and stable conservative views than normal Christians. I provided two examples of radical changes within their religion's short life span. Ralph admits to the LDS ability to be "supple" or as Romney would say "evolve." While I respect the concrete belief in Jesus, it is clear that LDS values evolve much too often. Where do they stand on abortion and stem cells--they have already watered down their pro-life stance in the past ten years. I will gladly accept Ralph's challenge: in twenty years the Mormon church will be much more liberal than it is today.

Hey Clint...are you the same guy who came on here a couple of weeks ago and completely lied about the RCP poll average and the number of polls which have Romney up by double digits in IA? Funny, you never responded when I pointed that out to you. Now I know're just an anti-mormon bigot who seemingly knows very little about politics and maybe even less about theology.

Reagan's Dad--I guess you're a little old and don't get the internet thing. It changes all the time you know--not like a book. When I said what I said it was true, and then RCP updated their website. If RCP is your guidline, right now there is only one poll with Romney up double digits in IA and he only leads by 1.2 now on their average.

Now I'm sure that number will be changing soon and I don't want you to get mad and call me a liar. However, on second thought, lying isn't all that blast away with all your ignorance.

No, Peter and David are flat out wrong that Mormons have more sensible and stable conservative views than normal Christians.

Yet Mormons consistently and over the long-term have rejected childlessness, premarital sex, modern unisex conceptions of human roles and nature, and so on. Mormons are also one of the few Christian religious organizations from the 19th Century who still believe in Christ's divinity and in a literal Resurrection and in a literal Atonement.

I provided two examples of radical changes within their religion's short life span.

The first was the rejection of polygamy in the 1890s. At the time, the government had confiscated all church property and had imprisoned or driven into hiding the bulk of the church leadership. Most Mormons were denied the right to vote and Utah was prevented from becoming a state. By contrast, even the most vociferous NYT article, or a bunch of protesters out front, seem pretty mild.

The second was the inclusion of blacks in the Mormon priesthood, which wasn't a moral issue anyway and which didn't have nearly the foundation in church doctrine that polygamy did.

Where do they stand on abortion and stem cells--they have already watered down their pro-life stance in the past ten years.

Wrong. The LDS Church has never had a stance on stem cells. The stance on abortion--that it is categorically wrong except in cases of life, incest, or rape, and even then not necessarily right--has remained unchanged.

It may be unpopular to stand up to Mormon apologists, but I will not allow them to pretend uncontested that it is a Christian religion. I realize that they have picked up and hold tightly to Christian vocabulary (Jesus, resurection, salvation, etc) but they do this in a desperate attempt to hide the truth. If any one seeks a little deeper you start to find gems like 'As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.', a denial of the Trinity, and the denial of original sin.

The first was the rejection of polygamy in the 1890s. I love this line! One hundren and twenty years ago is a long time and we should just forget about it right? Christianity has been around for two thousand years and never experience such a fundamental change in religion. Nor was the racism in the Mormon church merely a cultural thing. The Book of Mormon said that only "white" people could be saved (I don't recall any Christian-even those who supported segregation-ever claiming this) until the church re-prophecised this word to be "pure." Now translation isn't going to help you since Joseph Smith wrote originally in English (unless you want to start discussing the secret hyroglyphics which he transcribed from). The allowance of Blacks demanded a fundamental change in the Book of Mormon and Mormon doctrine.

As for abortion:

In 1983, the LDS Church's General Handbook of Instructions changed church policy towards abortion:

1.It added pregnancy caused by incest as one more ground for abortion.

2.It dropped the necessity that a pregnancy caused by rape or incest produce "serious emotional trauma in the mother" before an abortion was acceptable.

3.It clarified who should seek counseling, and from whom.


In his address at Brigham Young University on 1999-FEB-09 Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reaffirmed that an abortion is permissible, after "counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation" if any of four grounds existed:

The life of the mother is seriously endangered.

The good health of the mother is seriously endangered.

The pregnancy was caused by rape.

The pregnancy was caused by incest.

He cited an additional ground that would allow abortion as a permissible choice:

"The fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth."


And as long as freedom exists to shine the light of knowledge, I'll add that the LDS church did make a statement on stem cells, they stated that the issue:

"merits cautious scrutiny. The proclaimed potential to provide cures or treatments for many serious diseases needs careful and continuing study by conscientious, qualified investigators. As with any emerging new technology, there are concerns that must be addressed. Scientific and religious viewpoints both demand that strict moral and ethical guidelines be followed." ( Their silence is deafening, and clearly they are choosing not to condemn the practice, and they have clearly taken a stance that opens the door to this popular science.

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