Lest We Forget, America: The Mormons

Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in the great, progressive State of Vermont in 1805. Raised by a poor farming family with strong enthusiasm for the ‘Second Great Awakening’: A spiritual movement of the 1800’s centered around the belief that everyone could be saved through religious revivals, which lead to a number of new Christian denominations with the hopes of righting society’s evils before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Involved with the adventure of treasure hunting in early employment, Smith is said to have met an Angel who directed him to a buried book of golden plates, which told a specific religious history of Native Americans – a history that he later translated into The Book of Mormon, a textual staple of the Mormon religious practice, and the Church he established, now known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (LDS).

In the 1830’s, Smith moved west with the intention of establishing a ‘Zion,’ or communitarian establishment of believers/practitioners. To his dismay, Missouri citizens were not keen on his plan and expelled the pilgrims from the land. After a brief stent of imprisonment, Smith and his followers found their way to Nauvoo, Illinois to try again. Then, in 1844, he announced his intent to run for President of the United States, however, due to his practice of polygamy and his shutting-down of the newspaper that criticized him, unrest and violence erupted, leading to his murder.

Having regarded Smith as a Prophet, the Mormons looked to his second in command, Brigham Young, as their next prophetic leader. Try, trying again, they moved west once more and found themselves in the dry heat of present day Salt Lake City, where the modern day LDS church founded their new home. Facing several more run-ins with those who were not sold on the message of the Mormons, the followers faced federal persecution and military violence in the name of religious freedom before winning the right to practice as they so chose.

And, lest we forget, America, this, all happened a mere hundred years after our American fight for freedom from Britain, and little more than two hundred after the the Pilgrims landed in my co-author’s home town of Plymouth, Massachusetts seeking personal and religious freedom – we find our country wrapped in contradiction, yet again.

Was it their polygamy or their search for their self-sufficient/love-thy-neighbor community of Zion? Parallels are all but difficult to draw between the hardships suffered by these people in their search for freedom, and the free-love communistic hippies of the 1960’s or the over-hyped Red Scare and continued illogical resistance to anything socialistic or communal in our country today.

The democratic ideal, which the United States aims to progress the world toward is often anything but democratic. For true democracy would allow for religious, political, and ideological freedoms in all forms. A democracy for the people, by the people, is inherently communal, and obliges all of us to exercise tolerance and respect, especially for those we most disagree with.

When is the last time you wrote someone off as too ideological, too different, ‘backwards’, or unethical?  While a majority may dictate the average, it is surely not democratic to prevent the reinvention, interpretation, or manipulation of those truths we falsely hold as evident. Indeed, is it not at the fringe that growth and diverse opportunity occurs?; with those that try, try again?

—-

Mormonism is still alive and well in Salt Lake City, and around the world, with more than 12 million followers. Why polygamy is not as practiced as it once was, many of the core beliefs of conservatism, familial duty, service, and reverence is still practiced and observed. 34,000+ strong Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, just south of Salt Lake is perhaps the epi-center of thought and education through the Mormon lens, helping to define what Mormonism will become tomorrow.

Natalie and I were witness to the clean, well managed, and artfully maintained campus, where you can major in anything from Biology to Fine Arts AND where sunday is still a strict holy day, devoid of manual labor or even library study; and where if you show too much skin you may be refused a meal in the cafeteria.

See here for a decent, longer overview of the history of Mormonism.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Lest We Forget, America: The Mormons”
  1. Vince says:

    Your statement: the “over-hyped Red Scare and continued illogical resistance to anything socialistic or communal”. Expound please.

    • Just a personal opinion that Americans are irrationally afraid of socialistic topics. Sort of afraid of the word, without understanding the reality, or the possibility of new options, or amendments to, what I feel, is a broken U.S. system.

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