With Mitt Romney on the verge of becoming the Republican presidential nominee, the media has been focusing in ever more tightly on the LDS Church and the Mormon faith. And Joanna Brooks has become a go-to voice during our national inspection of Mormonism during this election season. Particularly in the last month. She's been featured on CNN, cited in a New Yorker piece by Adam Gopnik, and most notably appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

If there's one thing Jon Stewart does superbly, it's poke fun at his Jewish upbringing — especially when he's counseling Joanna Brooks on her "baby" religion of Mormonism. It's a fun, lively conversation in which the author of The Book of Mormon Girl discusses the fears, tensions, and survivalist instinct of Mormons of today.

For a more in-depth conversation before Ms. Brooks hit the national spotlight, listen to her hour-long conversation with Krista Tippett. You'll be moved.


Share Your Reflection



All I can say, is once again, Jon Stewart is a genius! I love how respectful, funny and smart he was in this interview. And yes, I would like to read Brooks' book. I have problems with the theology of the Mormon Church, and sometimes the cliqueiness of the people, but also recognize all of us tend to group up with our "homies" to feel safe and comfortable. I like who Joanna Brooks seems to be and that there ARE liberals in that large group. Anyway, mainly, hats off to Stewart for doing this interview so well.

thank you for krista's interview with joanna, and for featuring her appearance with jon stewart. in my opinion stewart is one of the best interviewers i've ever observed, right up there with krista; i've listened to the "on being" interview twice already. i plan to buy joanna's book! before i heard her speak i leaned toward the belief that the LDS church, or "mormonism" as i called it, was a cult. my opinions are shifting now and i find myself open to this faith that yes, is still in its infancy, and like all faiths is imperfect -- but bases its practices on love. and with fear so prevalent in our culture right now, we need all the love we can get. again, thanks.


How did this episode "demystify" Mormonism?

Here's a list of questions that would need to be asked of a practicing Mormon to "demystify" the religion:

1) There are over 70 prophets in the Mormon Church. All of these officials are men, and almost all of them are white. Would the Mormon Church ever select a woman to be in the Quorum of the Seventy?

2) A quick look at Wikipedia shows that Mormonism and Free Masonry were combined during Joseph Smith's time to create the secret rituals that are practiced in Mormon temples around the world. Not one Protestant denomination builds temples or practices these non-Christian rituals. Can you explain what these rituals are all about?

3) Many ex-Mormons have left the LDS Church because they felt that the culture was too oppressive and conformity was mandatory. Do you know any ex-Mormons? Do they have a point?

4) Can you tell us about Joseph Smith's attempts to translate the Book of Abraham and please explain why historians since the 19th century have said that Joseph Smith's translation is fraudulent. Is the Book of Abraham still used by the LDS Church today?

5) If the LDS Church continues to evolve, what essential parts of the Church will always remain? Is the First Presidency selected by God? Is Thomas Monson God's selected prophet for the world? For Mormons and non-Mormons?

6) Do you think there is a disconnect between the LDS members and their leaders high up in the Mormon Church?

Thank you.

I'm an x-Mormon from a prominent family. I'll answer a couple of your questions, but don't have time to handle them all. Yes, it's hard to live among the Mormons if you've left the Church. They consider it their duty to bring you back into the fold and are relentless in their attempts, outright or subtle, to do so. They will never let aa woman become a prophet because only men can hold the priesthood. Under extreme circumstances, a woman could give a patriarchial blessing through the authority of her husband. Part of the rationale of restoring the whole Church was to restore the direct line of the priesthood to God for they feel this was lost during the papal wars. The Book of Mormon was derived from the golden plates and Joseph translated it with the help of the urim and thumin, a sort of crystal ball (pretty magical eh?) These plates were revealed in a vision from God and Moroni to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in upstate NY, near Rochester and they hold the base for the whole restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Mormon. Mormons are loving and good at child rearing so although an apostate may no longer believe that the Church is the one and only true church of god, they have a hard time leaving it because their parents raised them with love and common sense and it is hard to hurt them by questioning their basic beliefs.

J. Williams:

You asked for a practicing Mormon to respond, so here I am. I am a lay member, not a general authority, so you’ll get my in-the-trenches, unofficial answers to your questions. I assume that’s what you’re looking for.

1. Women Prophets. There are 15 “prophets, seers, and revelators” in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are the three members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Other General Authorities, such as members of the Quorum of the Seventy you referenced, are not considered prophets.

Will there ever be women called to these groups? There likely will be if women are ordained to the priesthood, something currently not being done. However, men and women at all levels have access to “the testimony of Jesus [which] is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

2. Temples and Freemasonry. While it’s true that Joseph Smith was a freemason, and freemasonry may have influenced some current temple rituals, there is no close association between freemasonry and Mormonism. As a practicing Latter-day Saint for nearly 30 years, I’ve attended the temple dozens of times; and from what I’ve gleaned about freemasonry, the rites of the two are only vaguely similar in form and quite different in substance and purpose. And while I won’t comment in specifics about LDS temple rituals, I will say that the substance of them is scriptural. That is, LDS temple rites reflect Christian doctrines and belief about God’s purposes for His children.

3. LDS Culture and Disaffection. People leave the LDS Church—and many other organizations—for various reasons, including supposed oppression. But “oppression” is a subjective reaction to perceived “mandatory conformity” which is in the eye of the beholder; there is no objective truth to this claim. All I can say is that I’ve been a practicing Latter-day Saint for nearly 30 years, since joining the Church at age 22. Every day since then I’ve chosen to stay, and I would not have stayed had I felt coerced or compelled to do so. The LDS Church is run at the local level by a lay clergy (i.e., volunteers) of people who choose each day to stay. Besides, if conformity were mandatory, no one *could* leave!

4. The Book of Abraham. In my view the Book of Abraham is an amazing book of Christian doctrine that augments what we learn in the Bible. Critics have leveled various claims about its authenticity, none of which I find compelling. The most common one I’ve heard is that the papyri that the Church possesses have been translated by modern Egyptologists who say that its contents bear no resemblance to the Book of Abraham. The answer to this is a simple one: these papyri aren’t what Joseph Smith translated; those were lost. But to me, this completely skirts the real issue, which is that we have the book and it must be explained and dealt with. Its origins are an interesting but non-essential academic question.

5. The Future of the LDS Church. The essentials of the LDS Church will always remain the same: God is our eternal father. Jesus Christ is the savior of the world and salvation comes only through faith in him. God speaks through mortal prophets who teach eternal truths and administer essential saving ordinances (e.g., baptism by immersion, bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost, marriage). You can learn the essentials as www.lds.org/teachings.

God does call prophets and leaders at all levels. (We believe very much in revelation/inspiration from God to everyone in his/her stewardship.) Thomas S. Monson is called to be God’s prophet for the entire world today, as were his predecessors and as will be his successors in their respective eras. What that means is that God sends President Monson and his colleagues to teach the world the truth about God’s will and the good news of salvation and provident living through Jesus Christ's atonement and teachings.

6. LDS Members and Their Leaders. I think there is an impressive spiritual and emotional connection between everyday Latter-day Saints and their leaders. Obviously, with membership exceeding 14 million worldwide, most members don’t interact with general authorities much. However, every week members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, the several quorums of Seventy travel throughout the world meeting with Church members in local conferences. That is augmented by presidencies of auxiliary (e.g., women's and youth) organizations who also travel widely. And since the LDS Church is run locally by local volunteers, every Church member has leaders in her/his local area looking out for their well-being.

As in any large organization there will be those who think that leadership is out of touch with the common folk, but that’s not been my experience. The leadership of the Church (both men and women) have a very good grasp of what is happening in the world and what members’ needs are, both spiritual and temporal.

The best sources to learn more are the above-mentioned www.lds.org, as well as www.fairlds.org, a site that provides answers to many of the more controversial issues of Church history and doctrine.

Thanks for your interest.