Alex Beam, writing in the Boston Globe, about an upcoming PBS special on Mormons:
But also on view are doctrines and practices that most Americans would view as strange. For instance, founding prophet Joseph Smith’s revelation that the Garden of Eden was in Independence, Mo., and that Jesus Christ visited America shortly after his resurrection. On camera, Yale archeologist Michael Coe calls Smith a “shaman,” which is probably accurate but not a great quote for Mormons. Whitney does not shy away from telling us how the church has treated blacks and gays over the years. A 1978 revelation now allows male African-Americans to enter the LDS’s lay priesthood. Gays are not particularly welcome, just as they are unwelcome in many other mainstream American faiths. “Being gay in that [Mormon] culture is beyond hell,” one man says to Whitney’s camera.
“The Mormons” even tackles the ultimate red herring, “celestial marriage,” Joseph Smith’s term for polygamy. The church has gone to great pains to promulgate prophet Wilford Woodruff’s 1890 declaration condemning polygamy, deemed to have superseded Smith’s earlier, contrary revelation. HBO, which continues to broadcast “Big Love,” a series about a polygamist who lives outside Salt Lake City, apparently didn’t get the memo…
What does it all mean? PBS claims it has 75 million viewers a week. Let’s say one-tenth — no, one-twentieth — of that audience watches “The Mormons.” That’s almost 4 million men and women who will know more about the Mormon faith than Romney might wish them to know. It’s bad math for the Mittster.
Thank you, Alex Beam, for reinforcing the “Mormons Are Creepy And Weird™” message, which seemed to have slipped from the headlines since that BREAKING NEWS AP story about Romney’s great-great-grandfather being a polygamist. (That seemed a shoe-in for the stupidest campaign story of the year, until we heard about Obama’s white ancestors owning slaves. Great, one idiotic scandalous-ancestor story per party.)
Look, Mormonism isn’t necessarily my theological cup of tea. But I don’t apply a religious litmus test to people in my life, and I don’t think most Americans do, either. (“Bob is great auto mechanic, but I won’t let him fix my car, because he’s a Jehovah’s Witness.” “That’s a shame. I found a great coffee place the other day, but one of the waitresses is Hindu, so I can’t eat there anymore.”) My experience with Mormons is that they don’t drink, swear, and are almost disturbingly polite. They also often have actually lived abroad from missionary work and appreciate the upside of living in the United States as a result.
If Romney persuades people that he’ll make a great president, then they’ll elect him. If he doesn’t, they probably won’t. His candidacy is useful, though, to illustrate that folks in the media who would howl with outrage about snide comments about Islam, Judaism, or other socially acceptable faiths have no problem reinforcing the important public awareness campaign to tell us that “Mormons Are Creepy And Weird™.”
You know when I want to hear newspaper columnists lament the oddities of the Mormon faith? When they start violent riots over cartoons of Joseph Smith.