29 March 2008

Response to "The Mormons" (A Year Late)

After a year of having it on my to do list, I finally watched all of "The Mormons" documentary by Helen Whitney. There were some things I was very impressed by, and other that made me want to defend/clarify to all audiences, but I was most impressed by Marlin K. Jensen (who I had already loved as a Mormon scholar) and Terryl Givens, who I looked up online. He is the English chair at the University of Richmond. His ideas were well-formed, honest but unapologetic, calm, and intelligent. I thought, "I want to be an intellectual like him." I emailed him and received an answer half an hour later, impressing me further. Here it is:

Hi Michelle,

Thank you for the note. This is a good time to be a Mormon scholar
doing work in history and literature. We are finally getting the
chance to tell our own stories, and there is a large and faithful crop
of very bright graduate students spread across the world, all anxious
to show that faith and scholarship can be mutually reinforcing. Good
luck to you in your studies.

Terryl Givens

And, just a very small selection of my many, many, many responses:

Excommunication: there was so much focus on the lone chair. As far as I know, half of the council is randomly selected to defend the member's side. Also, why is it so bad that the Church excommunicates? Why would people want to be part of a church that supports things they don't believe anyway?
Who chose creepy music to go with the documentary? That's not very fair.
Baptisms for the dead for those in the Holocaust: if they don't believe that the baptism for the dead works, why do they care that we do temple work for them? If I found out someone in some church somewhere had my name on a list of people to pray for, I don't think I'd mind. (But then again, I can use all the prayers I can get.) I guess it would be better to say that I would think it funny if someone said they had put my grandma down as a member of their church, but I wouldn't be really upset about it.
Do we (Latter-day Saints) really deny death? Or do we just know what it is?
Why do "all religions have to move beyond their creation?"

And something I marveled at:

Quotation of Harold Bloom, Humanities Professor:

"All religion, western and eastern, is founded upon miracle. It makes little sense to present arguments against Joseph Smith and early Mormonism that would extend equally well to what we are told about the origins of what will eventually be Judaism, the origins of Christianity, the origins of Islam: all religion depends upon revelation. All revelation is supernatural. If you wish to be a hard-rock empiricist, then you should not entertain any religious doctrine whatsoever."

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