October 14, 2005

An American Epic

From this week's edition of comes a very positive article about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by journalist, and member of the LDS faith herself, Elise Soukup.

Soukup doesn't back up statements such as these (in which Soukup is speaking of specific doctrine that come directly from Joseph Smith): So does the emphasis on high moral standards, family ties and community service: Mormonism appeals to the fundamental human impulse for connection, security and a promise of rewards not only on earth but beyond time and space with appropriate quotes. This is a statement of perspective, but of whom? Hers? Sources she interviewed? The church? Her article reads more like a PR pamphlet that acknowledges a few spots on the past without serious examination of the extent of these (polygamy, lawsuits, debt and enemies), and even ends with a justification by Smith himself: 'I never told you I was perfect,' he told his followers. 'But there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.' What a nice, tidy finish. I cannot help but wonder at the four-star rating the article received. It has been anticipated and publicized by the church as forthcoming. I conjecture that it hasn't receive five-stars because it does at least mention a few of the blots on the church history of the man they claim founder of their religion.

The continued story interviews the current prophet of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley. Even these questions don't resound with the supposed lack of bias reporters are allegedly held to in giving "just the facts." For example: Why do you think the Lord chose Smith? Why was he the one? I have never read of a professional referring to Jesus Christ as "Lord" unless they personally believed he was.

This is a feature article, and Elise was assisted by Jon Meacham, the managing editor of Newsweek and distinguished writer of American History. He has an obvious interest in history and it is true that Mormonism is unique to the United States from an historical perspective: it is our own home-grown religion.

The growth of the church cannot be denied; however, more converts now are in Latin America and outside of the United States. How does the saying go? "A prophet is never welcome in his own town." With divorce rates for LDS no different than the national average (but certainly those LDS who live in communities with a higher percentage of the population receive greater societal pressure to remain married), why does the church continue to quote its allure as the perfection of the family?

This is the most polite society in which I have ever lived. They are hospitable, generally thoughtful, some of the hardest working people I have seen, and if they have trumped other protestant faiths in any particular way, it is the reverence they place on wives and mothers and education (something called "The Utah Paradox" exists here: less money per child is spent on education than the national average, but the kids consistently do very well on standardized tests). They could teach some of the denominations a few lessons about preparedness, organization and deference. While their faith influences these things and makes it a "nice" place to live, these qualities don't eliminate the challenges of frail humanity, but then, I suppose that no one religion does; rather, it is the one to whom each faith subscribes that offers relief from the fragile state of mankind.

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h/t: demosthenes

Posted by Rae at October 14, 2005 06:30 AM

I never held Newsweek in much regard, but this is pathetic "journalism" even by their standards. In the PR world, there is something known as "astroturfing"; this looks more like terraforming.

Posted by: Altar Girl at October 14, 2005 07:41 AM

Astroturfing, indeed. Even the scientologists aren't this smooth.

Posted by: Doug Dever at October 15, 2005 03:11 PM

I was intrigued by the Newsweek article. Being a journalist, I know how many hands an article has to go through before hitting the press and I can't imagine that Newsweek is full of Mormons! I feel it was a fair article and I left feeling like I learned something. People going into it with a bias probably felt angered one way or the other, I'm sure.

Posted by: Cathy at October 17, 2005 07:57 PM

In which kind of journalism are you involved? I am curious because I think having an LDS member write an article about her faith and to also expect her to be without bias is incredibly niave.

Yes, there are several editors that "check" things out. It was through those "hands" professional journalists like Glass (The New Republic) and Blair (The New York Times) had their articles fact-checked and edited and yet they were presented as factual, as truth.

I would've expected an honest examination of a few of the infractions that Soukup succinctly mentions. There is quite a bit of credible evidence out there; there are more than a few people who have studied M0rm0nism who aren't necessarily anti (although many who disagree are categorized as anti-M_rm_n) , but have been rather intrigued although never becoming members. Many are located in the world of academia. When an article is written about Protestant or Catholic Christianity and published in Newsweek (from past articles published typically at Christmas and Easter), they are examined from a theological and historical standing, supported with verifiable facts and quoted sources and opinions. I don't read Newsweek for correct theology. I do expect it to keep journalistic standards.

The people going into it with a bias "one way or another," would that be those who don't believe in the LDS faith, or those that do? Because those that do believe in the LDS faith could be angry that she even mentioned the fact that Smith had more than one wife or that he had extreme debts. I would appreciate your clarification on my first question of the paragraph, and would also welcome more of your thoughts.

A few more words on bias, which means "prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way considered to be unfair." If you are saying that those who read the article with previous knowledge and having already decided that they disbelieved the LDS faith as "true" why is that a bad or negative thing? Why is that implied to be worse, or "less open-minded" than an LDS who might read an article about Smith that presents factual evidence countering what they had always been told, and yet they are "angered" or reject the article as "biased?"

Excellent word choice, btw, because I think, using the above definition, that writing the article with bias is exactly what Soukup did no matter how you slice it.

Posted by: Rae at October 18, 2005 06:42 AM

The Newsweek article provides absolutely no evidence for its assertion that the Mormon church is a "booming faith."

Although I have not attended the Mormon church for over 30 years, they still consider me an active member. The membership numbers that the church gives are crazy. The numbers don't reflect who many believe actually believe in the church or attend church. The church leaves every baptized person on theirmembership list unless you fight and fight to get your name removed. What kind of crazy religion is that?

Recently, I called the membership department in SLC and asked to have my name removed. They actually refused to remove my name from their membership list. (this is freedom of religion?) The church insisted that to get my name off, I had to send a letter with my signature. So I did. They received my letter over three months and sent me a brochure: "please come back." I wrote again and again asked to have my name removed. No removal. Instread two men that I have never met dropped by our house to talk over the spiritual consequences of removing my name. I explained that despite their personal testimonies I wanted my name out of the church membership list for doctrinal reasons. (I have researched the church well and don't believe that it is the only true church.) I have still not received a removal. No wonder there numbers are "booming;" the church never lets anyone out.

I would be very interested in some accurate numbers of church membership that would reflect what the church membership actually. I doubt that it is booming and I'd challenge Newsweek to back up that claim with any evidence.

Posted by: irritated at October 19, 2005 06:03 PM

It's almost expected that a Mormon would write an article about her church, but what is disturbing to me is why Newsweek refuses to print any sort of counterpoint information, to at least give lip service to being "non-biased". With several books that have come out this year on various LDS-related subjects, and some of them very controversial, why aren't they even mentioned? An Australian named Southerton was excommunicated recently in Australia, and I'm sure that is was no coincidence that it happened as a result of the damaging evidence he presented that shows that the American Indians are NOT descended from the Book of Mormon peoples, as the LDS church has claimed. A book has also come out about an alternative explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon, having to do with someone named Solomon Spalding and his unpublished Manuscript Found. There was also the recent news that a court docket showing that Joseph Smith had been convicted of something called "glass looking" has just been returned to the library that originally had it on display. Somehow Newsweek failed to mention any of this, or the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which was shown on the History Channel two nights ago.

Where's your backbone Newsweek?

Posted by: Arthur Vanick at October 20, 2005 02:18 PM

Mormons aren't above anyone religion or above anyone else we are humans, children of god and we have problems, faughts and so on. We just try and live a clean healthy life witth God in our everyday life.

Posted by: Blake Bean at October 22, 2005 07:30 AM

Blake Bean- Thank you for taking time to comment.

No one here said that the LDS (isn't that the preferred name?) are less than flawed humans. Case in point, my words: This is the most polite society in which I have ever lived. They are hospitable, generally thoughtful, some of the hardest working people I have seen, and if they have trumped other protestant faiths in any particular way, it is the reverence they place on wives and mothers and education (something called "The Utah Paradox" exists here: less money per child is spent on education than the national average, but the kids consistently do very well on standardized tests). They could teach some of the denominations a few lessons about preparedness, organization and deference. While their faith influences these things and makes it a "nice" place to live, these qualities don't eliminate the challenges of frail humanity, but then, I suppose that no one religion does; rather, it is the one to whom each faith subscribes that offers relief from the fragile state of mankind.

The discussion here centers around journalistic integrity and an obvious bias.

Posted by: Rae at October 22, 2005 09:12 PM

I am also a former, still considered active, member of the LDS church. This NEWSWEEK article was wrought with glaring omissions of the history of the church. While I do consider Mormons to be some of the nicest, most caring people I have ever met, I now believe that the religion itself is corrupt, flawed, and filled with people that refuse to acknowledge who their leader really was. These are people that actually think that racism was God's idea.

Joseph Smith was an opportunist and a conman. After starting the church he realized that he no longer wished to be faithful to his wife. In order to accomplish this and still be in good stead with the lord he told his wife and some of his followers that the lord told him that bigamy was okay. Isn't that convenient. He eventually took dozens of young wives.

Brigham Young, the second prophet of the church, was an avowed racist. In his speeches he even said that if a white person and a black person had a child they should be put to death. This overt theory of racism was held by the church until 1978 when black men were finally allowed access to the preisthood.

It is no doubt that any member of the church would write a positive article. But conveniently forgetting well documented truths in your own religion undercuts any positive things you might have to say. How can we take this article seriously when, for good or ill, it does not trust its readers to weigh the facts?

Posted by: Judy at October 23, 2005 03:13 PM

The article called "The Mormon Oddessey" was inaccurate.

The Mormon faith is not Christian. No Christians believe that God was once a white man who became a god, nor do they believe that there are many gods with their own planets, like Mormons do. Nor do Christians believe that they will one day become gods and rule their own planets, like Mormons believe.

This doctrine, that there are other gods and that they too will become gods, is central to Mormonism but the writer to chose to ignore that peculiar doctrine of Joseph Smith as well as the fact that Mormons beleive that The Garden of Eden is located in Missouri just because Joseph Smith said so.

Mormonism imitates portions of Christianity but it is no more Christian than any other cult that does not believe the basic tenets of Christianity, namely, there is but one God, made up of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that Jesus was born of Virgin, who conceived after the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and not overshadowed by the Father.

Christians do not believe that God is an exhalted man as Mormon's do. They believe that He is spirit and Christ said that the Father was spirit.

Christian's do not believe that they can become gods for there is only one God, ruler, creator, and master of the Universe.

We believe that as the Bible says, that He spoke all that there is into being, including the elements.

Mormons believe He composed what we see from eternal elements.

Mormons do not believe that the Bible is accurate nor do they trust it, though the carry it when they come to the door, so as to give the appearance that they believe its words. But where it differs from Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon, they don't trust it...choosing to believe Smith and his composition, the Book of Mormon.

In fact, they believe that their Book of Mormon is the most accurate book on earth and yet, for all its supposed accuracy it is filled with anachronisms and speaks of places and huge battles for which archaelogical sites have never been found. In fact, not sites to correlate to the Book of Mormon have ever been found.

It is pathetic that they try to make the Mayan culture "squeeze" into the Book of Mormon when not even the Mayan language remotely resembles Jewish or "reformed Egyptian".

Mormonism is a faith that keeps these gems away from the public while it is masquerading as Christian in behaviour.

You see these gems would tell all who seek to know that faith what they are truly dealing with, but they mask these gems the meat as hidden and give you "milk" insteadt. In other words, they deny or do not emphasize that they believe this way because it would alienate anyone who knows what Christianity truly is...monotheistic..not polytheistic.

Mormons will take offense when called polytheists and say that they do not worship other gods...but the definition of polytheism is merely accepting that other gods exist, whether you worship them or not.

Christian...Mormonism is not.

Posted by: Alfred at October 23, 2005 06:03 PM

The LDS put all their faith in the history of the church but they don't like to aknowledge that their history is full of contradictions and hidden manuscripts. Hidden by the church that is. This shows to me that they are not fair dinkum. All they do is hidden as far as temple ritual, finances, authorities salaries etc etc. They top it off by hiding all the contradictory history and say merely that it is not "faith promoting". That is dishonest.

Posted by: Peter Campbell at October 28, 2005 06:10 PM

Will the Justices All Go To Mass Together??

At the risk of being permanently called a bigot, I believe there is a fundamental question that all health practitioners, all who are interested in the future of education in the United States, all who may have some interest in the separation of Church and State and inthe freedom of parents to raise their children, who are interested in public policy, must reflect upon during the confirmation hearings of Justice Alito. His confirmation will mean that a majority of the United States Supreme court members will be of the roman Catholic Faith. While I have no objection to any faith being represented on that court, as the final arbiter of the law of the land in the United States, I question the wisdom of making the majority the party of any one religion, especially one that has centuries of history of control over the action of its membership. Neither the presidency nor congress exercise such control over what is and is not the law as it develops.

This is the current religious line up of members of the Supreme Court if the appointment of Justice Alito is confirmed. Isn't it curious who is counted in the conservative branch of that line up.

John Roberts
(Chief Justice) Catholic
Stephen G. Breyer Jewish
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Jewish
Anthony M. Kennedy Catholic
Antonin Scalia Catholic
David H. Souter Episcopalian
John Paul Stevens Protestant
Clarence Thomas Catholic
Samuel Alito Catholic

Do those with that religious affiliation demonstrate long range agendas under the guise of the slogan "Strict Construction" What strict construction is really being gradually applied to the people of the United States?

For those who want to know the history of religious affiliation on the supreme court, and to see that five of the eleven Roman Catholics ever appointed will sit on this court if Alito is confirmed, see http://www.adherents.com/adh_sc.htm. Will the Vatican now become the supreme arbiter of the meaning of the U. S. copnstitution???

Posted by: Ed Campbell at November 2, 2005 09:25 AM
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