Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gloves coming off in Mormon/Cult debate?

Discussion about whether Mormonism is a cult continues in the media at a strong pace.  The following goes beyond typical differences in views on the trinity, or grace -- instead mining some aspects of Mormon history and practice that can appear strange to some.  This New York Times article continues non-believers Christopher Hitchen's and Bill Mahr's escalating argument for Mormonism as a cult.

Excerpts of Anne Frank, a Mormon, by MAUREEN DOWD, New York Times

Saturday night, Bill Maher bounded into territory that the news media have been gingerly tiptoeing around.
Magic underwear. Baptizing dead people. Celestial marriages. Private planets. Racism. Polygamy.
"By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion, It's a religion founded on the idea of polygamy. They call it The Principle. That sounds like The Prime Directive in 'Star Trek.' "
He said he expects the Romney crowd  — to once more "gloss over the differences between Christians and Mormons."
In The Times on Sunday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg chronicled Romney's role as a bishop in Boston often giving imperious pastoral guidance on everything from divorce to abortion.
Stolberg reported that Romney showed up unannounced at a hospital in his role as bishop. He "sternly" warned a married mother of four, who was considering terminating a pregnancy because of a potentially dangerous blood clot, not to go forward.
Another famous nonbeliever, Christopher Hitchens, wrote in Slate on Monday about "the weird and sinister belief system of the LDS," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Aside from Joseph Smith, whom Hitchens calls "a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities in upstate New York," the writer also wonders about the Mormon practice of amassing archives of the dead and "praying them in" as a way to "retrospectively 'baptize' everybody as a convert."
Hitchens noted that they "got hold of a list of those put to death by the Nazis' Final Solution" and "began making these massacred Jews into honorary LDS members as well." He called it "a crass attempt at mass identity theft from the deceased."
The Mormons even baptized Anne Frank.
Kent Jackson, the associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, says that while Mormons are Christians, "Mormonism is not part of the Christian family tree."
It probably won't comfort skeptical evangelicals and Catholics to know that Mormons think that while other Christians merely "have a portion of the truth, what God revealed to Joseph Smith is the fullness of the truth," as Jackson says. "We have no qualms about saying evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants can go to heaven, including Pastor Jeffress. We just believe that the highest blessings of heaven come" to Mormons.
As for those planets that devout Mormon couples might get after death, Jackson says that's a canard. But Bushman says it's part of "Mormon lore," and that it's based on the belief that if humans can become like God, and God has the whole universe, then maybe Mormons will get to run a bit of that universe.