Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mormonism: A Scrutinized, Yet Evolving Faith


Mitt Romney refused to mix religion with politics in this year's presidential campaign, but that didn't repress people's curiosity about Mormonism. His candidacy brought the homegrown faith into the spotlight.
Patrick Mason, a professor and chairman of the Mormon Studies program at Claremont Graduate University, says attention paid to his faith has been twofold. On one hand, it's been good for attracting new converts. On the other hand, it's turned Mormonism into something of a cultural punch line.
"South Park is a great example of this, The Book of Mormon musical is a great example of this, where people say, well, with increased attention comes increased scrutiny," he says. "And there are parts of our past that people just won't understand."
Mason says many people are skeptical of the church's origins, which involve the story of an angel directing Joseph Smith to golden plates and revealing a new Gospel. Many people are also dubious about claims that God lives on a planet named Kolob, or that people can become like God.
And yet, he says, many Americans don't think twice about Jesus walking on water or God sending Jews manna from heaven, because those age-old stories have become part of the culture.
"So the story of Jesus' resurrection is now accepted by the vast majority of Americans, but the story of Joseph Smith digging up gold plates or seeing angels is subject to scrutiny," Mason says.
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