The New Yorker has published a quite objective article, albeit rather lengthy, on the history of the Mormon church [of presidental hopeful Mitt Romney]. A rather bumpy ride for all concerned, especially when the LDS founder, Joseph Smith, was a consumate lier, cheat, more than questionable translator and well known confidence man. But in his defense, he did have a very active imagination, as attested to by his invention of 'The Book Of Mormon'.
"Stereotypes and pigeonholes can, in a stable multiethnic society, act as sanctuaries as much as cells. In the heyday of urban ethnic immigration, even anti-Semites allowed that Jews were good at selling drygoods and producing movies, just as Irish Catholics were known to keep a good saloon and walk a decent beat. The ugliest of these pigeonholes suggests a comparative advantage, anyway: to be thought to tap-dance well implies that you can, at least, do that.
American Mormons, in this sense, seem to have been rather flatteringly typed. The Mormon executives and advisers around Howard Hughes were famous for their probity, their clean living, and their loyalty. As with the blond Scandinavian bodyguards who attended the Byzantine emperors, their uprightness was all the more starkly evidenced by the shiftiness of the guy they were protecting. The details of their religious views had nothing to do with the social role they played. The Osmond family was the Mormon family: too many kids and too many teeth, maybe, but always solid, always smiling, always temperate—no alcohol, no tobacco, not even caffeine. In an entertaining new autobiography, “The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith” (Free Press), Joanna Brooks recalls ecumenical birthday parties as a young Mormon in California, and the anxiety she felt about simply seeing a bottle of Coke; Mormon parties featured (non-caffeinated) root beer. Nor were the Osmonds an outsider’s image: to this growing girl’s self-conception, the Book of Marie—“Marie Osmond’s Guide to Beauty, Health & Style”—seemed far more important than the Book of Mormon. Be perfect even as Marie on television is perfect, and you will be happy. ......
Mark Twain read the Book of Mormon and, knowing what Smith would have read, not to mention knowing about frontier fakery, came to conclusions about both the sources of its prose and the sequence of its composition:
The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel—half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet."
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