IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2007
FAITH OF OUR FATHERS
5 February 2008
Gordon B. Hinckley died last week. I had never heard of Gordon B. Hinckley, but knew that his death brought much sadness to a new friend, who is one of the transcriptionists for the Morning Stories project. On Hinckley's death, she wrote:
I didn't realize until I read her blog and went looking to find out more about this man that Hinckley was the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Wikipedia, Hinckley was the fifteenth president of the church and the oldest person to lead the Mormons in the church's history.
There has been much interest in the Morman religion since Mitt Romney has become such a strong contender for the Republican nomination. The concerns about what his religion would bring to the presidency are strongly reminiscent of the same comments that were made about John F. Kennedy.
I basically know nothing about the LDS Church, except that occasionally clean-cut looking young men in suits show up at my door and try to convert me. They are always very polite and take my "thanks, but no thanks" with good graces, going on about their way without trying to press their case.
During my years with La Leche League, working with breastfeeding women, I frequently encountered Mormon families. I began to note that whenever there was a woman I really admired, 9 times out of 10 it turned out she was a Mormon. All I really remembered was that my Mormon friends had huge closets full of stored food!
Suffice to say, I know little to nothing about the Mormon religion, so it was with interest that I watched 60 Minutes last night, which ran an old interview with Hinckley that Mike Wallace conducted about 10 years ago.
One of the first things Wallace asked Hinckley was about the belief that God and Jesus appeared to a 14 year old boy in the backwoods of New York state and told him to found this religion.
"Yep," smiled Hinckley, benignly.
"And you believe that?" Wallace asked.
"Yep," Hinckley replied.
"Really?" Wallace asked again, somewhat incredulously.
(This is not a transcript--I'm remembering the essence of the interview.)
It got me to thinking about Mormonism and Catholicism. How can we find odd this belief of Mormons that God and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith and told him to start a new religion when we believe that an angel appeared to a Jewish teenager and told her that somehow she had become impregnated by God Himself?
I started thinking about other beliefs of the Catholic church which are the foundation of the religion.
Jesus was the son of God. He was killed by men. His body was buried, but it came back to life on the third day, walked with his friends and then rose up into Heaven again.
He gave us the sacrament of holy communion which means that when the priest blesses wine and bread they become the real body and blood of Jesus which can then be eaten by the people who choose to participate. Holy cannibalism, Batman.
When you break core religious beliefs down into the lowest common denominator and attempt to explain them to someone who has never heard them before, Mormon beliefs are no more weird than Catholic beliefs.
Mormons have prophets, Catholics have saints. When I was a kid, you had to be dead a very long time before you could become a saint. When John Paul XXIII died, they were ready to canonize him almost instantly. Same with Mother Teresa. Neither is a saint yet, but they are definitely on the fast track to sainthood.
Apparently the head of the LDS Church is its prophet and whatever he says goes. How odd is that when you look at "papal infallibility" in the Catholic church. Some guy at some point decided to declare all popes infallible when they make pronouncements about faith and morals and it's been that way for centuries. It's the papal equivalent of "Because I'm the mom, that's why."
I know nothing about the religions of Islam or Buddhism (and shame on me for that), but I don't doubt that I would find many of those beliefs strange.
But, bottom line is that all religions are based on what may seem very weird beliefs to outsiders. It's why they call it "faith." I don't see where Mormonism is any weirder than Catholicism. I guess we are all so desperate for something bigger than ourselves to believe in that the guy who can sell his ideas better than the other guy is the one who wins all the followers.
However, I think I could be more easily convinced that God and Jesus appeared to a 14 year old boy and asked him to found a church or that God Himself impregnated a young Jewish virgin than I can accept the story of some extraterrestrial named Xenu and the existence of thetans.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is entry #2871