Skip to comments.Harold Bloom's Anxiety of (Mormon) Influence
Posted on 11/15/2011 5:25:40 AM PST by Colofornian
One odd feature of this bizarre Republican primary season is what we haven't seen yet: a full-bore re-litigation of Mitt Romney's Mormonism. There was a one-day tizzy last month over the anti-Mormon comments by Southern Baptist Convention leader Rev. Robert Jeffers, a Rick Perry supporter, but that's pretty much been it, which is all the more notable given that Romney's not the only Mormon in the race.
Instead, the only ones to really contend with the implications of Romney's Mormonism have been a few voices about as far from GOP circles as one can get. First, there was Chris Lehmann's recent cover story in Harper's, which did not address Romney's candidacy directly but which posed an intriguing theory for why the country may be more open to Mormons these days: because the country has increasingly embraced a Mormon-style form of prosperity theology fusing morality, materialism and financial success, with a strong helping of gold fetishism. Mormons, Lehmann suggests, need not worry about making themselves acceptable to other Americans because Americans are becoming them.
Yesterday came a more surprising entrant in the small camp of 2011 Mormon skeptics: Harold Bloom, the legendary Shakespeare scholar at Yale best known for "Anxiety of Influence," (1973), which argued that poets and writers are engaged above all in a struggle with their great precursors. I knew that Bloom had strong side interests in the mystic traditions of Gnosticism and the Kabbalah but I would not have expected him to be weighing in as heavily on the matter of Romney's Mormonism as he did in the Times' Sunday Review. In his characteristically ornate prose, Bloom delivers the bluntest warning against electing a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I have seen this season. He does so by contrasting Mormon founder Joseph Smith, whom Bloom finds quite compelling, with the current leaders of the church, whom he views as hardly distinguishable from the more self-interested members of the 1 percent now being targeted by the Occupy Movement:
...Should Mr. Romney be elected president, Smiths dream of a Mormon Kingdom of God in America would not be fulfilled, since the 21st-century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has little resemblance to its 19th-century precursor. The current head of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson, known to his followers as prophet, seer and revelator, is indistinguishable from the secular plutocratic oligarchs who exercise power in our supposed democracy. The Salt Lake City empire of corporate greed has little enough in common with the visions of Joseph Smith. The oligarchs of Salt Lake City, who sponsor Mr. Romney, betray what ought to have been their own religious heritage.
Though I read Christopher Hitchens with pleasure, his characterization of Joseph Smith as a fraud and conjuror is inadequate. A superb trickster and protean personality, Smith was a religious genius, uniquely able to craft a story capable of turning a self-invented faith into a people now as numerous as the Jews, in America and abroad...Joseph Smith continues to be regarded by many Mormons as a final authority on issues of belief, though so much of his legacy, including plural marriage, had to be compromised in the grand bargain by which the moguls of Salt Lake City became plutocrats defining the Republican party.
At the same time as he sees today's Mormonism as having become indistinguishable from the rest of the plutocracy, Bloom directly challenges the notion that the faith must be accepted on the same terms as other religions.
A Mormon presidency is not quite the same as an ostensibly Catholic or Protestant one, since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints insists on a religious sanction for its moralistic platitudes. The 19th-century Mormon theologian Orson Pratt, who was close both to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, stated a principle the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never repudiated: Any people attempting to govern themselves by laws of their own making, and by officers of their own appointment, are in direct rebellion against the kingdom of God.
Mormons earn godhead though their own efforts, hoping to join the plurality of gods, even as they insist they are not polytheists. ... The Mormon patriarch, secure in his marriage and large family, is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhead, with a planet all his own separate from the earth and nation where he now dwells. From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney? How would he represent the other 98 percent of his citizens?
Bloom concludes on an ominous note.
Mormonisms best inheritance from Joseph Smith was his passion for education, hardly evident in the anti-intellectual and semi-literate Southern Baptist Convention. I wonder though which is more dangerous, a knowledge-hungry religious zealotry or a proudly stupid one? Either way we are condemned to remain a plutocracy and oligarchy. I can be forgiven for dreading a further strengthening of theocracy in that powerful brew.
Granted, Harold Bloom's ruminations on Mormonism deep in the Sunday Times are likely not to register much in the South Carolina GOP primary. But the piece is worth reading in full.
Yep, they’ve got the stories in the can, ready to go.
“But if Romney gets the nomination, you can be sure that the press will enlighten us.”
And FR will be right there to add fuel to the fire.
On the other hand, it may backfire, as we saw happen after Perry’s pastor stepped in it.
When we members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were laboring side-by-side with other Christians to pass Prop 8, I do not recall them saying we were going to hell, we’re not real Christians, that we are members of a cult. HOwever, after the victory was won, when it became convenient, some of them turned on us. This is played out here on FR day after day after day.
You have the advantage that few people know the details of even the theology of their own church. There are profound differences between your Church and mine, but most people will be more interested in the oddities of underwear than in different conceptions of the Trinity. You are fortunate that, for the most part, your church wears the outer garments of the evangelical movement. The more masonic touches that originally meant so much to Joseph Smith, have been eschewed, it seems. I do not think of your Church as a “cult”in the perjorative” sense, but it is as different from Catholicism, or even normative Christianity as the “albi” of the Middle Ages. Such a difference that they caused the outbreak of religious war in Illinois, and NOT just on the issue of polygamy. So radically different was your faith, or at least the perception of it, that the United States forced the territorial constriction of Deseret to the present state of Utah, and then finally to the threat of suppression of your church altogether. It is to your benefit, that most people are totally ignorant of that history. That most people will judge you all for what you seem to be, very middle-American.
If not; they can't borrow my stuff!
The only backfire was MORMONism's; realizing (too late) that hollerin' OUCH! only made people decide for themselves to look up the TRUTH of the matter!
Sweetheart; those of us in the know have been against you HERETIC's from day ONE!
One can only salute the success of the SLC PR machine for this: they've done their job well.
And this "I am a MORMON" is inspired!
(But by whom???)
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.
The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings.
This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race--that they should be the 'servant of servants', and they will be, until that curse is removed."
Brigham Young-President and second 'Prophet' of the Mormon Church, 1844-1877- Extract from Journal of Discourses.
Here are two examples from their 'other testament', the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 5: 21 'And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.'
Alma 3: 6 'And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.'
August 27, 1954 in an address at Brigham Young University (BYU), Mormon Elder, Mark E Peterson, in speaking to a convention of teachers of religion at the college level, said:
"The discussion on civil rights, especially over the last 20 years, has drawn some very sharp lines. It has blinded the thinking of some of our own people, I believe. They have allowed their political affiliations to color their thinking to some extent.I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the Negro is after."
"He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn't just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn't that he just desires to go to the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage."
"That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for Negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have. Remember the little statement that we used to say about sin, 'First we pity, then endure, then embrace'...."
(Rosa Parks would have probably told Petersen under which wheel of the bus he should go sit.)
1967, (then) Mormon President Ezra Taft Benson said,
"The Communist program for revolution in America has been in progress for many years and is far advanced. First of all, we must not place the blame upon Negroes. They are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder."
We are told that on June 8, 1978, it was 'revealed' to the then president, Spencer Kimball, that people of color could now gain entry into the priesthood.
According to the church, Kimball spent many long hours petitioning God, begging him to give worthy black people the priesthood. God finally relented.
Sometime before the 'revelation' came to chief 'Prophet' Spencer Kimball in June 1978, General Authority, Bruce R McConkie had said:
"The Blacks are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty.
The Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow there from, but this inequality is not of man's origin, it is the Lord's doings."
(Mormon Doctrine, pp. 526-527).
When Mormon 'Apostle' Mark E Petersen spoke on 'Race Problems- As they affect the Church' at the BYU campus in 1954, the following was also said:
"...if the negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory."
When Mormon 'Prophet' and second President of the Church, Brigham Young, spoke in 1863 the following was also said:
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so."
(Journal of Discourses, Vo. 10, p. 110)
Yeah; Native Americans are althroughout the Book of MORMON; too.
I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today ... they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.... For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised.... The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.
At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen-sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parentson the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather.... These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness.
One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.
(Improvement Era, December 1960, pp.922-23). (p. 209)
“Sweetheart; those of us in the know have been against you HERETIC’s from day ONE! “
The Christians were not complaining when we Mormons worked side-by-side with them to pass Prop 8. That was my point. Only when it became convenient did many of them turn on us.
I read in the Bible where some folks accused Jesus Christ HImself of being from the devil and being a heretic.
P.S. It’s considered yelling when you use all caps; violates Internet etiquette.
So . . . whatever.
Blah blah blah. Don’t you ever tire of digging through anti Mormon history books and literature? Really, don’t you have anything better to do?
I must say they sound very like many other white men of their time. I have my opinion about of their theology—that it is false—but I must say that both Smith and Young were truly extraordinary men. Great chieftains. Both but Smith especially, drew men to him with great force. A veritable Robespierre to be silence lest he be convince his enemies.
I guess ALL must mean something different to a MORMON.
So; do you SUPPORT or REPUDIATE all of the QUOTES from MORMONism's leaders that you so cavalierly dismiss because an ANTI reported them before I did?
I'll bet that folks NORTH of the Mason-Dixon line may disagree; and THAT is where MORMONism originated...
And like many of OUR time as well!
Maybe literally above the Mason-Dixon line, in Pennsylvania. But the part of the northwest south of the National Road was settled by Southerners. This included Abraham Lincoln’s father and mother. They originated from Rockingham County, Virginia.
But, as I type this, I am about that far from the Gulf of Mexico - in Biloxi, and anOTHER beautiful day looks as though it is here!
This reply brought to you from the Numerically Enhanced division of TMI Industries, LLC.
Enjoy, and don’t lose too much on the wheels. Incidentally, I was at a reunion the year before Katrina. Went back several years later, and I was stunned by the changes. Seems asthough Mississippi didn’t get as much money as New Orleans.
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