Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Holly Welker on Why It Makes Sense for a Religious Commentary Blogsite to Pay Attention to Mormons

Holly Welker on why it makes sense for a blog like Religion Dispatches to include a Mormon blogger like herself, when Mormons represent only 2% of the U.S. population and .21% of the world population: 

So that’s another reason why a very small religion warrants a prominent place within the broader current discussion of religion, politics and culture: because Mormons have been where the Christian Right is collectively right now: we staked much of our political and personal identity and capital on a fight over the definition of marriage. We could see we were losing; we retrenched; we lost decisively. We sulked about it for a really long time, and now we just wish the whole sordid past could go away and stop haunting us. 
And then we managed not to learn anything from our mistake and did the same basic thing again a century or so later, but this time, we got a whole bunch of other people to join us.

Clever twist in that penultimate paragraph to her essay (it's the first of the two paragraphs above): you read it thinking you're reading about now, only to discover she's rehearsing the 19th-century Mormon decision to stake its identity and capital on a polygamous definition of marriage, only to find this definition rejected by mainstream American culture. 

And then, not having learned anything at all from that historical experience, Mormons turned around and replicated the pattern in the late 20th and early 21st century, this time with strong allies from the very evangelical and Catholic groups who had stoutly resisted the polygamous definition of marriage who seem equally unwilling to learn from their own misjudgments of the past--when they supported slavery or gleefully waged "holy" wars. As Doris Lessing says in her masterful little essay Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (Montreal: CBS Enterprises, 1986):

I think children should be taught about history not as is usually the case now, that this is the record of long past events, which one ought to know about for some reason or other.  But that this is a story from which one may learn not only what has happened, but what may, and probably will, happen again (pp. 69-70).

She's right about that. 

The photograph is, according to S. Michael Tracy in his book Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again (West Valley, UT: Eborn, 2008), the earliest photograph yet to be found of Joseph Smith. See Doug Fabrizio's discussion of this claim at the website of Utah's public broadcast station KUER.

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