Monday, April 20, 2009

Profit, seerstone, and rack of lamb

Will somebody explain the mormon religion to me? —Ada
I just dont quite understand it.
So there's this kid in upstate New York. Farming country, 1820s. Only he doesn't so much like farm work. He and his brothers and father develop this sort of income-producing pastime of searching for buried treasure. Mind you, the income isn't in the treasure found but in being paid to search, both in cash and apparently in sheep needed for the occasional ritual sacrifice. Lambchops, anyone? They never actually find any gold, but the kid thinks on his feet and always has an answer for why it slipped away.

He gets religion. I guess he always had it really, but his father's leaning toward unitarianism and his mother's evangelical protestantism and Bible reading leave him conflicted. Not to mention he's a middle child and struggling to find his place. Somehow this all comes together into a story of an angelic visitation, a divine purpose for young Joseph, and the burial spot of ancient golden plates in a nearby hillside.

It's quite an interesting story, and Joseph and his eventual followers ended up shaping a large part of the history of the American West. Today the main branch of Mormonism still believes in the mission of Joseph Smith, and believes his divinely given authority carries on with a modern-day prophet. Currently that position is held by Thomas S. Monson in Salt Lake City, Utah. They build temples, read The Book of Mormon along with their Bibles, and mostly look and act like everybody else. You probably work with a Mormon or two.

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