Walter Kirn’s Must-Read on Mormonism
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  • Billh

    In a 23-year military flying career, I flew alongside pilots of every stripe, many of whom were Mormons. Mormons truly know what is means to “have your back”. I couldn’t care less about their religious practices or beliefs. When you need help, integrity and dependability are what matters.

  • Walter, maybe I missed it; but have you weighed in on Big Love? I wouldn’t say it is the best hot-item TV series in recent years, but I thought it sharp, informed, insightful, sometimes savagely funny–and straight from the maw of the right’s great Satan, the Hollywood establishment. Would you agree? Or do you count it as another “opportunist slur?”

  • Corlyss

    Given TNR’s bent, I’m shocked. Of course I seriously doubt their subscribers/readers will read it. They know the “facts” about Mormonism: 1) it’s a religion and 2) Romney is an active member in good standing. ‘Nough said.

  • Corlyss

    @ Buce

    Well, Big Love isn’t a tale about the Mormons’ early struggles to settle a barren unforgiving land, or about their relentless persecution (Mormons were the most violently persecuted religion in the otherwise denominationally indifferent US for many decades), or about their vigorous philanthropy, or their compassion for Native Americans (regardless of the cause) when the dominant attitude toward Indians was “Crush ’em!”, or their devotion to the exceptionality of the US and what they see as the latter’s mission, or their overreperesentation in both the military and intelligence services, is it?

    Nope. It’s a tale about the culturally inflammatory practice of polygamy. Why would they choose that? Hollywood is all in favor of sleepin’ around, serial monogomy, multiple sexual partners. Are they proselytising to make their “life-style” choices more popular? I think not. They “just happened” quite coincidentally picked the one subject that discredits the Mormons in most voters minds, despite the fact that the Mormons renounced the practice in the 19th century. What else did they do? You know, just coincidentally? Raised the profile of the faith in that most controversial of issues just in time to infuriate evangelicals (another group yon Hollywooders despise with equal intensity) and blacks, who might otherwise consider Romney a vastly superior candidate to the airhead now occupying the office.

    But, gee, you know, it was just a coincidence.

  • An

    @Billh

    I concur. I grew up in a suburb outside San Francisco with a heavy Mormon population. I can count some of my best friends as Mormon. They are family oriented, love football, law abiding, hard working, and raise their kids the right way. All in all, they are the nicest people to be around. When I was young the only thing that bothered me was some of my friends didn’t drink soda, but I came to appreciate them even more when we were in college, and always had a designated driver.

  • ms

    I read the whole thing and enjoyed it. I like that Kirn recognizes the value of the strong communal ethos among Mormons, but think he fails to dig into the deeper reasons for Mormon solidarity. It sounds like he was never a very serious Mormon himself. Personally, I think that what makes Mormonism most appealing is its family-centered theology of salvation, which builds on a Judeo-Christian heritage while adding in some distinctly Mormon twists. This theology makes for a communal fiber of extraordinary strength, though admittedly some of the 19th century iterations seem pretty odd these days–polygamy (abandoned between 1890 and 1904)for example.

    The interesting thing about Mormonism is that it is at the same time adaptive and traditional because of the belief that God still speaks through its leaders. In other words, just as the Bible is the word of God that has been distilled and preserved by generations, Mormons believe that God still speaks to humans. If you believe it, that is pretty powerful. Kirn has captured part of the appeal of Mormonism, it’s strong community, but made fun of other aspects, and doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of the more serious parts of Mormon theology and practice that attract and hold members.

  • dr kill

    All religious belief is personal choice.
    I know Obama is an atheist. Fair enough. But what I’d like to know if Romney really believes that a lost tribe of Israel ended up in western New York State bearing inscriptions on plates of gold. That’s a yes or no question that deserves an answer.

  • Ann

    Read the book Saints in Babylon, which is about Mormons founding Las Vegas and of their history of living and working there. Their support of prop 8 actually surprised me because while Mormons had a huge presence in Las Vegas, they basically had a very laissez faire attitude about the goings on in the gaming industry – that is until the mob pushed them too far.

  • Alan

    @ Bruce

    I hate to disappoint you but I have seen a few scenes of Big Love (on YouTube to avoid anything naughty) and have not seen a single thing that accurately depicts my religion. Even, the most basic cultural behaviors and church doctrines are portrayed incorrectly.

    Kirn’s piece is interesting. I grew up Mormon, and remain so, and Kirn’s story reminds me of what some Mormons, both friends and family, choose to go through. Some eventually remember how they felt earlier and turn back to their religion; some don’t. I suppose that’s what our religion does. It give people a choice. A real choice.

  • ms

    I don’t think Obama would say he is an atheist, dr kill, but I don’t care what he would say one way or another because it is his policies I care about. By the same token, why does Romney need to answer the question you raise about his beliefs? What does this have to do with running the country? The nature of belief is that the beliefs you don’t hold sound odd and unbelievable to you and the ones you believe by definition you find believable. Just assume that Romney believes those things and now pay attention to his record and his policy ideas. He got where he is by being very capable. I’d say right now the country could use some of that competence.

  • Susan

    “Hollywood is all in favor of sleepin’ around, serial monogomy, multiple sexual partners. Are they proselytising to make their “life-style” choices more popular?

    Highly likely and quite funny considering it is Hollywood- which demands that either courts overthrow votes in order to impose homosexual marriage or that Congress must legislate a law permitting homosexual marriage-is the same Hollywood which mocks Mormonism despite the fact that in 1862, the United States Congress passed the Morrill Act prohibiting polygamy.

    That said; how come the Homosexual movement is demanding Marriage Equality when Heteroseuxals have not and are not allowed to marry members of the same sex?

    In their demand for ‘Marriage Equality’ is not the Homosexual Movement demanding ‘special rights’ above and beyond everyone else?

    And if their demands are achieved have they not created a culture of inequality?

  • JasonM

    Ah yes, Charles Blow, also known for referring to right-wingers on Twitter as “lice.” So classy, such paragons of civility, respect and tolerant discourse, these left-wingers!

    ‘a writer for The New York Times, Charles Blow, urged Romney to “stick that in your magic underwear!”’

  • My daughter, raised non-Mormon in Southern California, married a non-Mormon from Salt Lake City and has lived there for 20 years. She has been going through a divorce from hell. Her own (Episcopalian) church has been of no support or help whatsoever. Her Mormon friends had come through for her over and over and over again. They know she’ll never convert. My gratitude is endless.

  • Kris

    [email protected]: “I know Obama is an atheist. Fair enough. But what I’d like to know if Romney really believes that a lost tribe of Israel ended up in western New York State bearing inscriptions on plates of gold. That’s a yes or no question that deserves an answer.”

    Obama was asked if he is an atheist and provided a positive answer? When did that happen?

  • Corlyss

    @ Dr. Kill

    “But what I’d like to know if Romney really believes that a lost tribe of Israel ended up in western New York State bearing inscriptions on plates of gold. That’s a yes or no question that deserves an answer.”

    Does the answer to that question tell you anything about how he would rescue the country from the [insulting description of US President deleted -ed] now running it? Just curious.

  • El Gordo

    Brainwashed? Robotic? If Romney was a liberal Democrat we would be told that the same traits of calm and restraint are signs of a “first rate temperament”. At least in the case of Romney they have been tested and proven real, not just a convenient “narrative” aka fiction.

  • Billh

    7. dr kill “…yes or no question that deserves an answer….” No it doesn’t. It’s entirely irrelevant to the job he seeks.

  • Corlyss

    @ Men behind the curtain:

    [insulting description of US President deleted -ed]

    Com’on, guys! The rules are swearing and insulting patrons. That was neither.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      No, we also respect the office of the President of the United States and limit what we consider excessively insulting characterizations of whoever happens to occupy that position.

  • cugeno

    “But what I’d like to know if Romney really believes that a lost tribe of Israel ended up in western New York State bearing inscriptions on plates of gold. That’s a yes or no question that deserves an answer.”

    No. He likely believes that ONE person ended up in western NY bearing inscriptions on gold plates… since that is what his church teaches.

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