Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Mons Please

That’s right, I’m kicking it off with religion. One of the two topics those more genteel than I would suggest you avoid. (The other being money.)

I’m not going to lie. I’m a little fascinated by Mormonism, both the mainstream LDS and those fundamentalist sects off in Mexico, Arizona and elsewhere. There are clandestine temples and good manners, a brazen and successful go at banning gay marriage in California, a reality tv show….even a Broadway musical: The Book of Mormon! You cannot deny its influence. Some good. Some bad. Though my exposure has been limited, every Mormon I’ve ever met has been lovely, generous hearted and intelligent.

Strength of family and shunning of common vices is something I respect. However, from what I understand, questioning the Church is verboten. This is one part I am not keen on (along with the horrific push of Prop 8 in California).

I recently read The 19th Wife (fiction). It shuttles between the story (fictionalized liberties taken, acknowledged as such by the author) of Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young’s wives and a modern day murder mystery set in one of the aforementioned sects. Naturally, it kept me fascinated the whole while.

I often hear of folks scoffing at the supposedly "ridiculous story” of Mormonism’s founding but is it really any more absurd than a virgin mother? And the voice of God issuing forth from a burning bush? I think not. This fairly recent addition to the Judeo-Christian world has become the fastest growing religion in the world. You cannot help but wonder about it and relying on stereotypes is not the most efficient way to an open mind.

The 19th Wife offers a glimpse at the early days. It is a novel, so do not confuse it with an attempt to offer an objective visit on the subject. However, I find that I do learn from novels like this and it encourages me to look deeper and find other resources.

Here are some to start:
Books:
Under the Banner of Heaven

TV & Film:
The Mormons (PBS)
Big Love (HBO)
8: The Mormon Proposition
Ken Burns’ The West