Friday, December 14, 2007
But, hey. This is my last word on the subject, I promise!
When Lawrence O'Donnell, in his little fit of anti-Mormon rhetoric said that the Mormon Church was "racist" and "ridiculous," he also said that it is "based on the work of a lying, fraudulent criminal named Joseph Smith" he was treading on ground that got Don Imus fired. Maybe O'Donnell should be fired for his lack of on-air civility. Had he lived in a less forgiving culture, say, Islamic, and said that about the Prophet Mohammed, they would undoubtedly put out a bounty on his head. Here in America, while we tend to take a dim view of name-calling and slander, such statements are usually overlooked. We don't behead folks for their views here in the land of free speech. But I saw the broadcast. You could almost see the spit flying from his enraged lips.
I was shocked. Sort of. We Mormons are, historically and intellectually, pretty resilient. So, just for the record, let me offer another view. Joseph Smith was a farm boy from upstate New York. Yale literary scholar Harold Bloom, who has written many, many books, has written one called The American Religion, in which he writes of Joseph Smith: "I can only attribute to his genius or daemons his uncanny recovery of elements in ancient Jewish theurgy that had ceased to be available either to Judaism or to Christianity, and that had survived only in esoteric traditions unlikely to have touched Smith directly." Joseph had a third-grade education. His mother described him as a "relatively quiet" boy. When he was 14, reading in the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which says: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, he then went out into the woods behind his house, knelt in prayer, and said he had a vision, in which two "Personages" appeared before him; one pointing to the other said, This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him.
Ministers of the day told him his "vision" was of the devil, and that he was "deluded," but he knew what he had experienced. "I had actually seen a light," he wrote, "and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision, and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it...."
And I, and thirteen-million-plus other people believe him. He assured us that God continues to speak to people, that he is alive and well, and that he had not said everything he had to say thousands of years ago and has nothing left to say: "For unto him that receiveth I will give more."
Joseph Smith taught that the glory of God is intelligence, and that Man is, that he might have Joy. He taught us that "Families are Forever." He taught that whatever principle of intelligence man attains in this life will rise with him in the resurrection. And that we are to seek wisdom and to "study and learn and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues and people." He taught us that we are not alone in the universe.
"And God said, Here is wisdom, and it remaineth in me...And worlds without number have I created...But only an account of this earth give I unto you, For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine, and I know them." And, "Every spirit of man was innocent from the beginning." And animals have souls. Well, there's more. But you get the idea.
As for the the "racist" thing: we believe that God has not only spoken to the Jews who wrote his teachings in the Bible, and to the people who wrote them in the Book of Mormon, but "Know ye not that there are more nations than one?...and because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another, for my work is not yet finished...for I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them." (And I say, yes! there is Truth and Beauty in the words of Black Elk, and the Buddha, and in the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad -Gita, and the Koran.)
A Book of Mormon prophet says, "Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another," and "one man shall not think himself above another." And because every single one of us is a literal child of God, we are all brothers and sisters, and are loved equally.
So, Brother O'Donnell, I forgive you for saying that we are ignorant and gullible, misguided and ridiculous racists.