Theocracy in America?
April 17, 2001 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Theocracy in America? Specifically, in Utah, according to the writer of this Washington Monthly piece, who grew up there. Is the article too harsh, though, given the author's apparent lingering bitterness regarding her upbringing?
posted by raysmj (22 comments total)
Even though I tend to share the author's opinions on a lot the arguments she makes, some of her language lapses into hyperbole ("...because the repressive religious culture tends to sear lasting psychic scars on outsiders.") or cliche ("Basically what happens, though, is that since they can't have premarital sex (or masturbate, for that matter), Mormon kids often get married just to get laid.").

Still, I enjoyed the article, and a couple of times got tense thinking about how I would keep my family's beliefs intact in the face of that much pressure. I think I would just move.
posted by jennyb at 2:45 PM on April 17, 2001

Well, okay, I admit I had an ulterior motive for posting that, which was to bump it up on the recent comments.

I know there are LDS folks here at MetaFilter and I am wondering what the other side of this situation is. Do you support measures "to prohibit city recreational activities on Monday nights just because that's when Mormons are required to have 'family home evening.'"? What is your view on women forgoing education to start families and the author's accusation that it has "the added benefit of keeping women really stupid"?

I brought those two situations up because they were the ones that struck me, with my sensibilities, as the most alarming, but I would like to hear any of her points debated.

Like I said, I liked the article, but it's no fun if I agree with it all.
posted by jennyb at 2:54 PM on April 17, 2001

Also! While I am generally not a fan of porn or the porn industry, the alternatives as presented by the Church of Later Day Saints make me want to march in support of Club magazine.

Okay, that's my MeFi posting quota for the next four months. I'm exhausted.
posted by jennyb at 2:58 PM on April 17, 2001

I have the fleeting hope that another emergent religion will have a momentous event take place in Salt Lake City, leading to centuries of rivalry and conflict. Just because.

But of course, the LDS in Utah could be accused by the cynical of adopting the same tactic as the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland: breeding themselves into dominance.

How long, though, until Utah secedes?
posted by holgate at 2:59 PM on April 17, 2001

I can't wait until the winter olympics start in SLC. When the world shows up and can't get an alchoholic beverage on a sunday, can't find a restaurant open after 8pm, and half the tv channels in their hotel room are blocked for 'indecency', we're going to be mocked for being the violent yet puritan country everyone thinks us to be.

The puritan roots show a bit here and there in american culture, but in Utah, it's like a magnifying glass pointed at those roots, all the time.
posted by mathowie at 3:05 PM on April 17, 2001

How long, though, until Utah secedes?

Never. US states can't secede. It's part of what they agree to when they apply for statehood in the first place. (Keep this in mind, Alberta!)
posted by aaron at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2001

Mormon kids marry "just to get laid"? I did that and got screwed.
posted by Postroad at 3:17 PM on April 17, 2001

Back in the 50's and before, didn't a lot of young couples, from all sorts of backgrounds, get married mainly to have sex. I'm pretty sure that's why two people as incompatible as my parents got hitched. Cliche or not, I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that Mormons marry for sex.
posted by anapestic at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2001

My husband used to be a Mormon (he is from Colorado)....from what he tells me his Mormon girlfriend did everything but rape him-he made her get down and pray and ask for forgiveness(!).......he also tells me that where he was from the Mormon church grew by "missionary dating"-in other words, the Mormon gals, who were raised to be perfect wives and sexpots, would date Gentiles and convince them to become Mormons.
This is one legalistic cult that scares the crap out of me. And I say that as a born-again Christian.
posted by bunnyfire at 3:34 PM on April 17, 2001

I was just about to write something snarky to bunnyfire about how Mormons are gentiles, but when I did my fact checking, I see that one of the definitions of the word is a non-Mormon. Is this their way of saying that they're God's chosen people, the lost 13th tribe of Israel? Seems pretty arrogant to me.
posted by anapestic at 4:05 PM on April 17, 2001

Is this their way of saying that they're God's chosen people, the lost 13th tribe of Israel? Seems pretty arrogant to me.

Find me a religion that doesn't do the "God's chosen people" thing, and... well, it's not much of a religion. Apart from Buddhism, but that's not a religion in the traditional sense, anyway.
posted by holgate at 4:36 PM on April 17, 2001

Having grown up in utah, all I can say is that this guy is right on the money. Pesky missionaries on the streets, church propaganda all over the teevee, and an entrenched old boy network all working hand in glove to crush out any vestige of individuality or dissidence against the church.

Unfortunately, the Mormons viral missionary tactics ensure that the church keeps expanding. I moved a couple years ago, and already the Mormon temples are sprouting up all over albuquerque. Those of you who aren't Mormons, don't bother trying to escape. Resistance is futile.
posted by snakey at 4:39 PM on April 17, 2001

The puritan roots show a bit here and there in american culture, but in Utah, it's like a magnifying glass pointed at those roots, all the time.

Oh, talking of the Olympics, which bit of the Book of Mormon talks about bribing officials? I'm looking forward to hearing the moral exegesis of that sorry tale of corruption.
posted by holgate at 4:40 PM on April 17, 2001

Man. It would take more time than I have to respond to everything... so I'll just sit on the side lines and watch. On so many fronts, Utah Mormons deserve the press we get. To use a phrase from "An American President" (Man! I loved that movie!)... this is "Advanced Citizenship": I can't imagine that any majority get's very high marks for being completely sensitive of minority group's desires. It's one of the downsides of "enlightened self interest". I'll do my part, though, by being as active I can be in local politics while I live here.

I don't know how much more you wanted me to say, being MeFi's token Mormon and all (well, as far as I know)... but I think that says plenty.

As for the snarky comment from holgate: bribery of Olympic officials is hardly a recent invention. I'd just like to think that maybe it was some good Mormon that blew the whistle. =)

And one more thing (sorry, I thought I was done)...

JennyB: to answer your question, I wouldn't support closing public facilities on Monday nights to allow for FHE (Family Home Evening). But I do see that there are some pretty compelling issues... how does a town (as a group of people, not necessarily a political unit) behave when a majority of its population shares certain social morees? If I was an employee of said town, I would have to say that I would certainly be tempted to vote for closures of non-essential services on Monday nights. Tempted... but not moved to action. Instead, I would likely support an initiative to open and close non-essential services based on demand. If I and my fellow majority-ites were really all that gung-ho about being elsewhere on Monday nights then demand would shrivel, and the closings would follow... of course, closings would probably also follow (after time enough to show cyclical patterns) on Sundays, the Monday's after three day weekends and for the few days surrounding major civic holidays... demand could also work the other way around, and we'd have later hours on Thursdays and the like. The net effect is that the people of the town would benefit generally regardless (as much as can be expected) of religion. That would be my ideal... of course, I've only just now put much thought into it.
posted by silusGROK at 7:17 PM on April 17, 2001

Dang. Thought I linked to the question properly using the hash mark.

Hey, Haughey, how do you do that? I just used a #number in the anchor tag... should I have used a non-relative link?
posted by silusGROK at 7:22 PM on April 17, 2001

heh, Vis10n: it's probably just that Mormons aren't trained to be sneaky and underhand when they're dishing out bribes. "Here, have a college scholarship for your son." "You're not meant to announce it in public." etc.
posted by holgate at 9:22 PM on April 17, 2001

The main reason I posted this article is -- well, the quality of the article was one, and its near-furious tone -- had nothing to do with any specific problems with Mormons per se. Actually, I've always found them to be rather decent people. Instead, it has to do more with how the story relates to the rest of America.

Maybe my feelings have something to do with my seeing the Mormons in action in the South, rather than Utah. Here, they're still just making inroads, so they don't go mad trying to convert people. No, the fundamentalist Baptists, Church of Christ people and others play that role. But the latter can be worse -- Mormons at least generally act in accordance with their beliefs rather than being preachy and then embracing hedonism in their off hours. Mormon proselytizing seems more like marketing by comparison.

No, my big problem is this: We've had anti-porn crusades from left and right elsewhere. We have people wanting to privatize parks and anything public. Banning people who smoke from anywhere, or have the wrong language on their T-Shirts, is not a Mormon or even religious thing. Drinking has been cut considerably by drunk driving crusades that do not address the problem of increasing traffic in regard to the problem.

The author notes that the Mormon religion attracted plenty because its so very American. Is this true of the entire story? I won't even address what that may mean.
posted by raysmj at 10:33 PM on April 17, 2001

raysmj: "The author notes that the Mormon religion attracted plenty because its so very American."

an almost completely unrelated aside: I grew up in the south of the Canadian province of Alberta - with a rather high per capita percentage of LDS people - and instead of commenting on women marrying at a young age, I'd rather note many mormons (especially those in rural areas) speak with a distinctly American accent.

the american nature of mormonism manifest in accents? I don't think that's entirely true...but what the's an interesting little fact...
posted by lumiere at 11:23 PM on April 17, 2001

I'm an atheist, yet I am absolutely unnerved that the mormons would even think to baptize deceased non-mormons into their church. There is nothing more disrespectful of the lives that once were, than desecrating other's good names for all of history (mormons love the genealogy) to see. So when historians, centuries in the future unearth the records they can say, "Gee, I guess they all were mormons". Underscore this with what we Earthlings are still learning from Hitler's Final Solution, and how the mormons have sought to eclipse those important lessons in interest of Church growth and political domination.

How truly abominable it is, to redefine human beings after they have passed on. And it should be illegal.
posted by crasspastor at 11:57 PM on April 17, 2001

Nothing quite like hyperbole, CrassPastor. Sheesh.

First of all, vicarious baptism is something one does for one's own ancestors... Granted, some folks get a little gung-ho -- the Holocaust victims issue comes to mind -- and the Church makes special effort to educate its members about the inappropriateness of such "hobbies".

Second of all, the rite of vicarious baptism no more makes the deceased a Mormon, than dedicating a book to someone makes that person its author.
posted by silusGROK at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2001

I guess it would depend on how serious one takes their Earthly legacy.

Second of all, the rite of vicarious baptism no more makes the deceased a Mormon, than dedicating a book to someone makes that person its author.

I didn't realize this.
posted by crasspastor at 11:20 AM on April 18, 2001

Few people do. When you hear "baptism for the dead", or (worse) "baptism of the dead"... images of grotesque rites better left to the dark ages or fiction come to mind. In all reality, the rite is simply an offering to our ancestors to accept the vicarious baptism should they choose. Of course, we'd like to think that they all choose to accept it... but that probably isn't the case.
posted by silusGROK at 11:33 AM on April 18, 2001

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