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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Trilogy on LDS... 

Being a Colorado wolf, it is important to have a good perspective on the history of the Rocky Mountain west. And no group, perhaps, adds so much flavor as the LDS. Along with Faolin, I am working my way through a trilogy of books that explain the origin, the consequences and the continuing difficulties of what is often labeled as the largest Cult in the US: the Mormons, the church of JC of the LDS.

Now, let me preface this with a comment on perspective. Regardless of your feelings on religion--be they those of Bertrand Russell (it's all charlatanism) to those of Mother Teresa, or anywhere in between: JC was a great guy. My belief is that if the nutballs out there quoted a little more from the Beatitudes and more generally Matthew, Mark and Luke--rather than the miserable Leviticus and the rest of the Pentateuch, Kings, etc., we'd have a hell of lot better handshake between secularism and religion in this country.

Compare:
Genesis: When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

Judah bartering with a harlot, who is actually his son's widow. Pretty ascetic stuff.

Or:
Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 3)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land. (Verse 4)
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Verse 5)
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. (Verse 6)
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Verse 7)
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. (Verse 8)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Verse 9)
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 10)

Looks like one can pick and choose from the Bible.

Anyway, Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, apparently invented the Book of Moroni somewhat on a lark, but when his family was credulous, he went through with it. This from "No Man Knows My History" by Fawn Brodie (a classc written 60 years ago), which establishes how the Book of Moroni essentially pulled together topical events from 1820's upstate New York (from fear of Catholic encroachment to the Masonic scandals) to create a truly American religion. Those who think the current power of the religious right is an anomaly will re-think after reading this book.

The second book in the trilogy is "Mountain Meadow Massacre" by Juanita Brooks, also written in the mid-20th century. This covers a specific event--the annihilation of a large wagon train by the southern Utah LDS--in 1857 when the US was preparing to attack Utah in force because of disagreements with the Mormons. The massacre cannot be dismissed as a "Mormon" phenomena, however. It was inevitable given the paranoia rampant in Utah at the time. This book shows how religion-controlled kingdoms will inevitably lash out.

Finally, the book "Under the Banner of Heaven", written in the past few years, shows how any "splinter" religion like the Mormon religion will itself propagate schisms--from the reformed LDS still headquartered in Independence, MO, to the polygamist sects of southern Utah and Northern Arizona. And guess what? These groups have a lot in common. Often misogynist, irrational, hypocritical and logically inconsistent, they by nature set up an "us" versus "them" attitude that leads to more circling of the wagons.

Can't we all just get along? More on these books in future blogs...

-Vulf

Monday, October 17, 2005

Some good news... 

Thanks to J for this update:

The Human Security Report found a decline in every form of political violence except terrorism since 1992. It found the number of armed conflicts had fallen by more than 40% in the past 13 years, while the number of very deadly wars had fallen by 80%.

This is good news (Darfur [not included in their data for want of accurate information] notwithstanding), and actually--albeit in understated way--emphasizes what an anomaly/blight the war in Iraq is. Since the UN, end of colonialism and end of the Cold War are the primary reasons cited for the reduced war-related deaths in the past decade, one may arrogate that one or more of these is missing in Iraq...

The bottom line is, as "us and them" situations--the Cold War, colonialism and unilateral decisions being the three examples cited--disappear, the strength of wars decrease absolutely and relatively.

Here's to multi-lateral actions!

-Vulf

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