Where Are They Now? The Mormons

 Guest Blog Filed by: IoGT Religious Affairs Correspondent, Phillip Harris
Joining me for this installment of ‘ Where Are They Now?’ is distinguished Theology Scholar and Institute Senior Fellow, Prof. Chris Martin.

Chris, Thanks for joining us.
Its Carl actually, and Prof. Martin to you.
Firstly, the Mormons. Religion or Cult?
Well Phil, its hard to say really. As religions go, its pretty ordinary. But if compared to the average cult, they really aren’t all that shabby I suppose.

And when did it kick off?
Around 1830 in America’s New England region. A 24 year old named Joseph Smith, Jr., received a visitiation from an Angel named Moroni informing him of a book of gold plates buried in a hill near his home. They were said to describe dealings between God and ancient Israelite inhabitants of North America.

You mean Native Americans?
Yes, a central contention of mormon beleif has it that Native Americans are actually decended from Hebrews in Jerusalem. The theory, Frank, is however completely inconsistant with molecular biology and recent genetic findings.
Its Phil. Getting back to the Golden Plates…
If they actually existed, they were translated by Smith into the The Book Of Mormon, the church’s sacred text. Mind you, it has its fair share of critics though. Religious scholars contend certain linguistic anacronisms in the book clearly proove it to be fabricated by Smith. It references animals, plants, metals and technologies that archiological or scientific studies cannot account for in pre-Columbian America such as elephants, cattle, horses, sheep, wheat, steel, brass, iron, and even chariots. Mainstream historians and archealogists also reject many of the civilisations and peoples it describes. Its first edition also contains hundreds of grammatical errors, all curiously removed in later editions.

Sounds a touch dodgy.
Yes. Smith claims he translated the plates from ancient Egyptian script by gazing at a stone at the bottom of his hat, or by using a set of stones spectacles. Surprisingly though, by command of the Angel, Smith couldn’t show these tools to anyone. Eventually the gold plates were returned to the Angel.
And what became of this Smith?
He was eventually beaten to death fairly unceremoniously by an angry mob in 1844.
Fairly tough crowd then?
Quite so. Even now, critisicsm of Mormonism focuses on, homophobia, racism, sexism, historical revisionism, inadequate financial disclosure and of course plural marriage. Joseph Smith himself married at least 32 women during his lifetime, including several under the age of 16, already married women, and orphans that came to live at his house. The Church also restricts temple admission to anyone not paying a tithe, and denies scholars access to many of its key church documents like Joseph Smith's diary. Former members have also revealed it suppresses the intellectual freedom of its scholars and maintains files on its members to monitor any ‘questionable activity’.
Quite a cross to bare then?
Not for this lot, they object to the use of the use or wearing of the cross due to its pagan origin and that it symbolism of Christ's torture and death.

And where do these damned clean cut boys on bikes then?
Every year the church dispatches over 50,000 missionaries who actually convert over 240,000 people into the Church of Latter Day Saints every year. Most converts belong to some form of Christian church and know very little about the church’s theology before converting.

Christ almighty! How many of these things are there?
Too many for most people’s liking. Around 13mln in total, 6mln of which are in the US. 12% of the world total live in the state of Utah, where they make up around 60% of the population. And they are growing fast. The average Mormon family is thought to consist of 4.5 children, far exceeding the US national average of 2.1%. Utah’s birthrate for example is around 40% higher than the national average.
And why Utah?
Well probably because it’s the first place never to expel them. After persecution in America’s New England region, they were driven from Ohio where Smith was tarred, feathered and narrowly escaped castration. In Missouri they were issued with a ‘Mormon Extermination Order’ by the Governor. They then settled in Illinois where Smith was assassinated. A majority of them then emigrated to an area of Mexico soon to become the Utah Territory.
I think we’ll leave it there Professor, theres somebody at your door.
Oh shit. Do you think they heard us? And your $#`*ing cars in the drive so they’ll know we’re in here. Answer it it will you Phil. Phil?