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June 21, 2004

Mormon weirdness

They say there are now more Mormons than Presbyterians in the United States. Well, on a recent trip to the east coast, I was talking to a friend who just got a position at University of Utah, and I realized talking to him he didn't know much about the religion. Going to a high school that was ~50% Mormon, I know a bit about their ways, below are a few "fun facts" for readers to chew on.

1) Mormons don't believe in the Trinity. God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are distinct agents.

2) The Latter Day Saints Church (the main Mormon group) accepts the existence of a Heavenly Mother, the wife of God.

3) Mormons are not monotheists, they are henotheistic, in that they worship one god (God the Father), but accept the reality of other deities. In addition to the Heavenly Mother, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, Mormons usually also believe that other planets have their own gods.

4) Because, Mormons believe that god was a man, as were the gods of other planets.

5) Some righteous Mormons will also become gods.

6) Mormons do not believe in hell, rather, righteous gentiles go to a lower level of heaven. Even evil gentiles go to an after-life, which some Mormons believe is superior to this life. Only apostate Mormons go to something called the "Outer Darkness."

7) Mormonism began in the context of Joseph Smith's affiliation with the Universalist religion (now part of Unitarian-Universalism). This explains the lack of heaven, and also, posthumous baptism (everyone has a chance at heaven).

8) Mormons reject earthly polygamy, but if a man is "sealed" to a woman, she is to be his wife in the after-life. If he divorces, she still remains his wife, and if he remarries, and is "sealed" again, the second woman will be added to the tally of wives in heaven.

9) Mormons believe some Native Americans are descended from Jews. I haven't seen mtDNA or NRY studies that indicate a Jewish lineage, but the believers believe.

10) They wear sacred underwear.

11) Their rituals have a lot of freemason practices because Smith was associated with the masons.

12) They believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers.

13) The star Kolob is the closest to where God lives. God is a physical being, he does not sit on a "topless throne."

14) Yes, the Mormons used to think that black Africans were unfit for the priesthood until 1978.

15) Mormonism is pretty up-to-date, for 1830! The problem with creating a religion in the light of history is that you can see how man-made these sort of belief systems are, and how influenced they are by their social context. After all, if Mormonism was a religion founded in 1970, their segregationist racialism and bizarre ideas about New World history would not have been part of the package. Rather, they would have incorporated the World-As-We-Know-It in 1970.

16) Their church is rich. One of the richest entities in the United States.

Posted by razib at 04:45 PM