A Mormon will be the Republican nominee for President in 2012! Seriously, that’s not on the order of a black president, but it’s surely a sign of American religious tolerance. Still, the evidence is pretty clear [link added] that Romney’s religion is hurting him among evangelical Republican primary voters, and may hurt him in the general election, as evangelicals are not the only Americans suspicious of Mormonism.
A lot has been written on Romney’s personal history in the Mormon (LDS) Church. But, we’ll be debating the election all year off and on, so I thought for one night we could discuss the religion itself: What is Mormonism and why is it so controversial?
Based on last week’s group discussion, some of you know a lot more about this religion than I do or that I could learn in a few days. So, I’ll just open the meeting by summarizing a few facts about Mormons in the United States – numbers, stated beliefs (according to surveys), the who/what/when/where stuff. Then in our discussion I hope we can debate both aspects that seem to me to be implicit in this topic: (1) What is Mormonism and what do Mormons believe? And (2) why are people so hostile to it? I hope we can talk about the factors that might motivate people to hate Mormonism beyond just the sect’s odd theology; e.g., psychology, culture, etc..
NOTE: This week I’m providing lots of background links. They mainly cover basic Mormon beliefs and practices, but some offer defenses of some of their more unusual ones. I’m going to read them all and I hope you will read a few, too.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What are Mormons like on the United States? How “different” are they from other Americans, in terms of lifestyle, education, income etc.?
- What do Mormons believe? How monolithic are they in their beliefs?
- How different is Mormon theology and everyday beliefs of Mormons from other American Christians?
- Who cares? That is, is Mormonism influential in our politics or culture outside Utah and a few other places? What about for a President Romney?
- Why do so many people seem to dislike and/or distrust Mormons? Is it the LDS’s history, with its polygamy and insularity? It’s secretiveness? Its theology and hierarchy?
- Are Americans really getting more tolerant of religious or ethnic/racial minorities? Why/why not?
Mormons in the United States –
- ExecSum of a 2010 Pew study of all aspects of Mormonism in the USA.
- Mormonism may no longer be one of the fastest growing religions. They are having trouble holding on to young people.
- Long (pdf) study of Mormons in the US since 1990.
Mormon beliefs and practices –
- ABCs of What Do Mormons Believe? From beliefnet.com.
- The same thing, but from Mormon.org
- “Why Are Mormons Weird?” Fascinating short post by a Mormon explaining the reasons for a common anti-Mormon viewpoint.
Critiques and Defenses of Mormonism –
- A fascinating, mixed defense of Mormonism ‘s place in modern America.
- A feminist criticism of the Mormon Church, from a former member.
- A defense of some of the more exotic elements of Mormon theology. Another one.
We haven’t done a religion one in a while. Hope to see you all there at Eclipse Chocolat.