August 23, 2012
Joanna Brooks —
Mormons Demystified

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to CNN, Joanna Brooks has become a go-to voice during our national inspection of Mormonism in this presidential campaign. As Mitt Romney makes history, we revisit our personal and revealing conversation with the Ask Mormon Girl blogger. She opens a window on Mormonism as an evolving and far from monolithic faith.

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is chair and associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. She's also blogs at Religion Dispatches and Ask Mormon Girl.

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Web-only Interview with Joanna Brooks

In the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, Krista Tippett interviewed Joanna Brooks as Mitt Romney was about to become the party's presidential nominee. We followed up from our previous conversation to see if circumstances had changed since the primaries. Ms. Brooks says that Mormon culture continues to be stretched in interesting ways, deeper than politics.

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Joanna is such a beautiful and important voice in modern Mormonism. I'm a big fan, due mainly to her address at the SLC Mormon Stories Conference, "Mormon Identity in the 21st Century: Claiming and Belonging." I hope her message of inclusivity will continue to spread. Thank you for giving her a platform on your wonderful show--that I've actually been a fan of for even longer (previously as Speaking of Faith)--and for being willing to have such an open-minded and open-hearted conversation in this climate of divisiveness and soundbites.

This delightful interview would probably have been one of my favorites even if I weren't a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Krista and Joanna, you rocked!

And to prove I'm a Mormon, I even cried. Joanna, I was touched by your portraits of your dad and your husband and how you relate to them (you made me love you all) and how we share that long view of time--that God is fair, and it will all work out. And I was touched by the graceful, even humorous way you shared about practices often ridiculed or feared, which are sacred to us.

I laughed about beginning with pioneer stories, because that's so typical! (I've seen it in other countries, though half the Church population resides outside of the US and Canada, and it's common among new converts--pioneers themselves.) On one side of my family, I am descended from real-live-crossing-the-plains pioneers, and that runs deep in my blood. Sometimes I'm zipping down the freeway, off to work on something throughly modern and academic, when I imagine my great-great-great-great-grandmother, who died of cholera on the north bank of the Platte, saying proudly, "Look at that girl go!"

On Being (and Speaking of Faith before that) has been a great blessing in my life BECAUSE I am a Mormon. I love Krista's interviews because they remind me of the deep conversations I have only with friends who share a deep, devout commitment to God, love, humility, conscience, and service--in whatever faith they are found. I am enriched by sharing beyond my own circle; we take less for granted and gain insight as we probe for both common ground and unique perspectives. Mormons would say that's because we're all the children of God, who loves and guides all who are seeking.

I feel tremendous freedom to explore and discern truth through the experiences and wisdom of others. Joseph Smith taught, "Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck, and his eyes are opened to see the truth. . . The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same."

Speaking of truth, so many journalists throughout my lifetime have not even checked their own style guide's description of this church before making fools of themselves, and of us. When they get it right, I feel relief and joy, as though it's a personal favor. So Krista, thank you. Thank you for the deep respect and sincere inquiry that characterize all your interviews.

What I did not find in Joanna Brooks' interview was sufficient attention to how Mormons and Mormonism are active now, in contemporary social and political life. The interviewer early on says she won't begin with "the big one" or polygamy; but that is by now an artifact of history with little to no bearing on day-to-day life, either for Mormons or the rest of us.

What does count is the insular mindset of many Mormons; Joanna Brooks herself says to begin that her life as a Mormon provides all she could possibly want. But an outsider may be what it takes to ask the question, "What is missing from this picture?"

What is missing, it seems to me, is a deeper social consciousness, or, to but it bluntly, conscience. The story of Prop 8 in California in 2008 is as instructive in this as anything. Ask a Mormon what their values, as brought forth from the sources in the faith, would be, and the responses are instructive, and discouraging. No one will say the Church made a mistake or that active and illegal interference in the political process should be open to question.

This, to this reader, is a grave issue but one not addressed in polite society, of which "Your Voices" functions as a primary element.

Glad I read your fluent, calm critique before I commented! I love Krista's presentations, but feel she just let Brooks prattle on, with her romantic conception of LDS religion, community and history. What was incredibly missing was the question of Romney's religion with and how it would affect the great power the Presidency bestows. Romney the Mormon must proceed differently than Nixon the Quaker or Kennedy the Catholic. They never claimed to believe in (and certainly did not practice) their respective orthodoxies. Romney was a BISHOP and his father was on the highest level of power/control in the LDS church (and would have become President-Prophet if he had lived a few more years). Can politics among the LDS be disassociated from religious principle? Joseph Smith wished to be president of the USA. Young's defense of polytheism delayed Utah statehood for decades. The Mormons divide all humanity into "us" and "them" (like most religions do, admittedly; but deny the latter even attending and viewing many sanctifying observances. And clearly their inquisitorial practices match or exceed anything in the Roman Church (when it was active) or even in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, and Mao's China. (I won't comment on the Steppford-like buzz of Brooks' or Romney's words, ideas, and even physical expression - unless you request me too. Unfortunately it is too common in too many groups to be unique, but it always indicates whose authority the affected person submits to.) I am very disappointed, and even a little suspicious, that Krista Tippett permitted this display.

Some notes about this excellent conversation:

Mormon 'underwear' is similar to a Catholic scapular: we wear it next to our skin, and it reminds us and is a symbol of our devotion to Mary and to prayer and to live in constant presence of God. Next time someone criticized it, she can compare it to a Catholic scapular.

It sounds like Mormonism is a kind of evangelical or fundamentalist outgrouth of mainline Protestantism. Maybe they have more in commonn with the Fundamentalists that other groups. I was impressed with the Mormon's devotion to the person of Jesus.

Of course the Mormon faith strongly supports morality. They have opposition to same sex marriage in common with the Catholic Church, and I appreciate their organization's efforts in this area. At this time when morality is under attack, they are fighting the good fight. One of the most pro-life senators is Oren Hatch, and he is a Mormon.

Polygamy is made more of than it deserves. Polygamy was allowed in the Old Testament for periods of time, and what is against it is that it doesn't mirror the love of Christ for his Church: one bride, one groom. But it's not on the immoral level at all of abortion, or embryonic stem cell research, etc. - she can bring this up when polygamy comes up.

The Catholic Church studied Mormon theology and decided they couldn't officially be called Christian because their concept of the Trinity is so different, but this doesn't affect the Mormons' devotion to the person of Jesus, and their everyday moral living.

Their belief that their is a female God also might be an intuition about a Catholic teaching, that God is neither male nor female, but Spirit, and having both characteristics (or how else could God create both?), and also an intuition about Mary's role and place.

The idea that the family is eternal is interesting, and healthy, if pushed a little too far. In heaven we will be reunited with family, of course, but our central union is in Christ. And we can't say that we knew each other before birth. But the emphasis on the family, especially today, is very healthy.

> Of course the Mormon faith strongly supports morality. 

Oddly enough, I too support morality, which is to say people's not hurting each other, which has nowt to do with who consensually 'sleeps' with whom (nor how), naught to do with the disposition of zygotes, blastocysts, gastrocysts, fœtuses, or most embryos. Rather, it consists on never using force, be it violent, economic, or emotional...that is to say, a world with no Authority, there really being no gods or masters.

Your comment that the Mormon Church does not believe in the Trinity is wrong. The Catholic Encyclopedia has no indication that the Catholic Church does not accept the Mornmons as Christians. In fact the Catholic Encyclopedia state what I have copied and past as Mormon beliefts as written by their founder, Joseph Smith. Note the first tenet of faith state they believe in the "Father , Son, and the Holy Ghost." See below.

Those who accepted them were termed "Mormons", but they called themselves "Latter-Day Saints", in contradistinction to the saints of former times. The "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" was organized on 6 April, 1830, at Fayette, Seneca County, New York; Joseph Smith was accepted as first elder, and prophet, seer, and revelator.
The articles of faith formulated by him are as follows:

"(1) We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
"(2) We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
"(3) We believe that through the atonement of Christ all men may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
"(4) We believe that these ordinances are: First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost
"(5) We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances thereof.
"(6) We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, viz. apostles, prophets, pastors teachers, evangelists, etc.
"(7) We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.
"(8) We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the 'Book of Mormon' to be the word of God.
"(9) We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
"(10) We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. That Zion will be built upon this continent. That Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaic glory.
"(11) We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.
"(12) We believe in being subject to kings, president, rulers and magistrates, in obeying. honouring and sustaining that law.
"(13) We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, 'We believe all things, we hope all things' we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
---- Dee p.s. (One last comment: God is the Judge of all, not we human beings.

As a Catholic, I researched the above statements, and some of them are false. For example: The Catholic Church does not declare that Mormons are not Christians. Furthermore, Mormons do believe in the Holy Trinity, since it is in their statement of Beliefs. Tell the truth and do some research before making accusations. Besides, Mitt Romney fought not to allow same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. He was over-ruled by a Democratically run legislature. He also lowered taxes in Massachusetts. He cannot be blamed for all that happened in Massachusetts due to the legislature be Democratics in total. He cannot be blamed for the Big Dig problems either, as he inherited it and once in office, he brought improvements and integrity to a dishonest mafia run project.

Thank you. On Being is one of my favorite radio shows to listen to, I find it balanced & thought provoking, which I appreciate.
This particular interview was very personal & expressive of many of my own feelings, complexities, & history, with the culture & religion in which I was raised. Though I find much to relate to in many of the On Being broadcasts, I identified very strongly with what was expressed today. I felt compelled to respond in writing because, as was pointed out in the interview, it is very difficult to express who you are & why, to others not familiar with the culture. Perhaps this is partly because the Mormon religion is also a very strong culture, which (for better or worse) integrates itself into very non-religious & separate components of your life. Yet for its own survival, the early history of the church & its people were forced to be separate (both physically & ideologically). This separateness is not unique to Mormons. I agree that much of the scrutiny comes from the relatively short history of the church, as much as from the details (I imagine that if one were able to go back to the times that other established religions were formed, you would find as much conflict & derision in those beginnings, remember that history is written by the victors).
Unlike Joanna, my current status is outside of the church, by my own choice (I know that I am considered, even at age 50, a 'lost sheep' & am welcome when I choose to attend). Most (definitely not all) of my family does practice & I do relate & participate from that position, in some family settings/circumstances by choice, because the culture & church are, & always will be, a part of who I am & I still respect much of what the church teaches & believes. I see no conflict there, as most of the issues (not all) that lead to my leaving the church in my late teens, are the same issues that I have with many other organized religions, with which I am familiar. Though it has been some time since I've seriously questioned my decision to break with the church & broaden my belief system, I've spent many long, hard hours, over & over, examining & re-examining who I was, where I came from, what I believed, & where I wanted my life to go. Perhaps, as indicated in the interview, this aspect of soul-searching is also an integral part of the belief system that formed the foundation of who I am. While listening to the broadcast I felt a strong kinship with Joanna, and I wanted to express that I appreciate her voice.

Her story parallels my own of breaking with the Mormon church, but being unable to eradicate it from my life. I wonder if the situation is similar to a child being emotionally dependent on an abusive parent.

Alma - I think that is probably an appropriate analogy. I broke with the church of my upbringing many years ago. I have never been sorry. I think once you open to new ideas and see that beliefs you have been taught are inaccurate, and even harmful, you cannot go back. But I also acknowledge the feeling of loss, of being 'out of the tribe', or 'family' of the church. I think, as in an abusive home, that the fear of that keeps many people in denial of their situation. I hope you have found peace.

Thank you very much for your episode on "Demystifying Mormons." As an active, mainline Mormon, I usually cringe to listen to anything about our church made by anyone not a fellow member. I get tired of hearing how strange I am, how foolish my beliefs and traditions what a welcome treat to listen to your thoughtful, respectful, unbiased conversation with Joanna Brooks! You have no idea how much it means to me to hear many of my most sensitive beliefs treated with such careful consideration and regard.

I am one of the "white knuckle" Mormons who thinks it might be better if Mitt doesn't spend too much time in the public spotlight...not because I am embarrassed to talk about my beliefs, but because I feel like there aren't enough people like you and Joanna, who can speak so clearly about the questions of faith each individual Mormon deals with privately on such a public stage. (Plus my wife dated one of Romney's sons in I wouldn't mind my mother-in-law not being able to rub that in for the rest of my life!).

Again, thank you so much for the respect you showed my faith. I especially appreciated the question that suggested the notion that, while I subscribe to a particular theology, I am an individual who continues to grow and adapt in my own way.

You have earned a loyal listener...and given me a great example of how to respect others' views and seek to understand.

This is a letter to say thank you for producing such a wonderful program. I have been a public radio listener for many years, but only recently have I begun to listen to programs like Being. What prompted me to write was the program with Joanna Brooks. Her insight, and Krista's friendly but utterly pointed questions, has really opened a window into Mormonism for me. I grew up in Arizona, and had many Mormon friends; however, I found that many of the issues Joanna brought up to be completely outside my view of Mormonism. Thank you so much for illuminating the religious, spiritual, and cultural challenges facing moderate Mormons as this "Mormon Moment" come mroe and more into the mainstream.

This is the first discussion I have ever heard with a Mormon that honestly addressed some of the key issues that led to me wanting to place as much distance between me and the Mormon Church as possible. I too grew up in the culture, caught between inflexible orthodox demands and expectations, and the contradictions inherent in the church and a culture that is in conflict between what it says and what it does, whose history of itself has changed when it becomes uncomfortable.

Though I am 25 years older than she is, I came away feeling that Joanna validated many of my own observations and experiences honestly and with understanding, particularly the issue of women in the church. At the same time, I felt very much at times that there were certain aspects that she avoided, notably the morphing history. I still do not trust the Mormon church: if it can so easily avoid its past by rewriting it, how can anyone know whether what it says now will not also morph? I noted that Joanna used the term "14 million members of record", which is the closest I have ever heard any Mormon come to admitting that a large portion of the "members of record" do not consider themselves Mormon, which goes considerably beyond simply being inactive. Some of my ancesters also were early pioneers who came west in the 1800s, but I do believe that the driving force was poverty in the midst of a massive economic depresson, and the draw and promise of a promised land (land being the operative word).

Nonetheless, this was time well spent listening for me, to hear that there are many people still in the culture who are asking the same questions, feeling the same tensions, that I did. I questioned the theology, and so for me, there was no difficulty in making the choice to leave. I do not miss the culture, because not only is the church still heavily anti-female, there is a substantial and often heavy-handed patriarchal attitude at all levels, and entire mormon communities and families reflect this. Mormons can be harshly judgemental. Joanna spoke openly of her discomfort in the 90s. I experienced it in the 50s and 60s.

I especially want to thank Joanna for acknowledging the shame that so many mormons, both in and out of the church, have experienced, especially as one begins to recognize the many inconsistencies. It took me a very long time to even tell anyone I came from a Mormon background. Longer still to come to grips with my own feelings about it. It has been a long time now since I've felt that denial. I am mostly curious now about how the culture affected my family, and in how it ultimately destroyed my family.

I married into a high ranking Mormon family in Utah (the governor was their family home elder that visited on Monday evenings). It was a shocking experience. I learned they not only focus on their ancestry, they pray to them. They made it clear that their ancestors could become "gods" based upon the number of offspring they had through genealogy. Also, the prevalence of polygamy in outer suburbs of Salt Lake City is well established, as in the southern four corners, north of Ogden, Utah, and into Eastern Nevada and throughout Idaho. I saw a very different model, with minimal rights and emphasis on women - there was never any mention of a husband and wife (mother-father) figures in heaven, only fathers and men who were leaders in the faith on earth. So, I believe the author, growing up in CA, may have been shielded from the extreme Mormonism in Utah. My now ex-in-laws made it clear that women are not allowed into heaven or to be come "gods" unless they were married and bonded forever to her husband. She will always be subservient to a husband, the one she is sealed to for life. So, they have a strong maternal link, but not a strong women as an individual. They do not respect or approve women to be individuals in their own right. They feel the same way about homosexuals. I spent 6 months married before I had to leave, and it took me two months to get divorced mostly because divorce was an embarrassment. The family fought the divorce with every dollar they could muster and influenced by work environment. I escaped and now live in Minnesota.

I am sorry that you had a bad experience. The Christian Church (all included) believe that those who believe in and follow Jesus are given the Holy Spirit who Romans [and other books in the Bible} tell us that God, the HOly Spirit dwells within each Christian. That could also be viewed by critics of Chrisitianity as "Christians believing they are, therefore, gods. Mormons do not believe they are GOD, but gods filled with the Holy Spirit. That is their termm not mine, as I am a Roman Catholic. John Paul II and Vatican II belore that condemns no other religion who believes in God. We believe there are some truths we share in common with other reliegions, even those who do not believe in Christ Jesus as Savior. The point is that we can all agree on the points we share in common. We can all find faults with all religions in some ways, since each is composed of human beings trying to do their best [although imperfect] to honor and love our Creator God. Forgiveness is the hallmark of believing in Jesus, for Jesus has paid the price for all of our sins/mistakes/selfish actions, or whatever you choose to call them. Romans 5:5 is one among many verses in the Bible that tells us, "...the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Jesus said to His disciples, "Behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father unpon you; but you are to stay in the city [Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:48. "When He had said this, He breathed on them; and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." " John 20:22. There are many more, and some more directly that teach us that the Holy Spirit dswells within us.

With all the hype surrounding Mitt Romney as a candidate for President of the United States, there has been a LOT of reports and speculation about the church and Mormons in general. Most of the information is somewhat correct and objective, but I have read and heard WAY too much that is incorrect, misinformed, skewed, and flat-out ignorant. As a life-long Mormon, I was curious to hear what Ms. Brooks had to say.

Overall, I was very pleased. Her interview was well thought out, candid, and honest. She tackled controversial topics with ease and explained things very well. My husband didn’t appreciate how she worded some things, but I have no complaints. There were a few times when she broached the more sensitive and “scandalous” issues that I cringed, waiting to hear how she would expound on the difficult subjects (i.e. polygamy, race, GLBT, garments, etc.) but she was more open and direct than I could ever hope to be.

One thing that has been bothering me lately is hearing over and over that Mormons are not Christian, despite the fact the church is called The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints, we read His scriptures, study His teachings, and try to follow his example. Ms. Brooks had this to say about the subject: “…[A]s someone whose faith and whose Mormon-founded faith has centered a great deal around Jesus Christ in thinking about the Atonement and the power of forgiveness and grace in everyday life, it still is strange to encounter the notion that Mormons aren't Christians. Christian then reveals itself to become a word that's used instrumentally perhaps to authorize some forms of belief and not others, but not to actually describe the way an individual relates to the notion of Jesus Christ.” While it doesn’t make sense that someone can use the word “Christian” instrumentally instead of as a way to describe how a person acts on their beliefs in Jesus Christ, I finally understand where those people are coming from.

It was also refreshing to hear Ms. Brooks’ logical explanation of the Mormon view of family and the eternities, as well as our day-to-day way of living. I also enjoyed hearing about her experience with feminism and liberalism at BYU, a Mormon University. I grew up very sheltered, and as an adult I am realizing there is a very fine line between what is OK with forward thinking and what is too radical to be in line with the church’s doctrine and is therefore not tolerated. As with any religion, there are lines you do not cross because it will do more harm than good in the whole scheme of things. Sometimes, though, knowing where to find that line is tricky when it comes to hot-button issues.

I highly recommend this broadcast to anyone who has questions or is curious about the Mormon faith.

Two of my favorite people getting together to talk?! Thank you Krista and Joanna for this interview. I am Mormon and over the past 2 years I've been in a faith transition. I have increasingly become disaffected and to be honest I don't like it one bit. I want to feel at peace about my religion and 'stick it out' so to speak, finding a middle-way. Joanna's comment about 'Mormonism not washing off' is so true!

There are two very distinct sides to Mormonism. I am not a Mormon, but share the church's interest in genealogy. The pleasant side is Joanna Brooks. It is very real. The other side has to do with business and economics. Mormons are very good about taking care of their own. Members have id numbers and their activities are tracked. I did some indexing for them for the 1940 Census and I am quite sure there is data on how much and what I indexed. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is satisfactory with the individual. The business side of the religion and the white male leadership is what bothers me. It is this side of the religion that will affect this nation much more if Mitt Romney gets elected than Joanna's side. Buyer beware.

while I respect Krista and this program very much it's got to be said that ANYONE who believes this HUGE fraud perpetrated by Joe Smith- with his fake 'golden tablets' and 'seer stones' and the blond Jeebus with the Angel Moron-i and Gawd living on the Planet Kolob, etc. - is delusional or mentally retarded...srsly how does this Moron 'scholar' (now THERE'S an oxymoron) justify spending her entire human life wasted on such total non-sense, and the thought of electing some Moron for President is just absurd, like we need someone who believes in fairy tales as President of the US...what a waste of public airwaves and $$$, I turned the channel after 15 minutes and I NEVER switch channels on Krista! I'm actually embarrassed for her having to listen to this total load of shouldn't take any semi-intelligent person more than an hour of research to understand what an illiterate con man Joe Smith was and how he sold this river of snake oil to gullible fools, to make this 'faith' the foundation of your life is building on quicksand...the dogmatic doctrinal garbage is even more ridiculous than the Catholic church's non-sense, hell South Park has a better understanding of Mormonism than 'Mormon Girl' OR Krista!

I am enjoying the show on Mormonism today.
Who performs the song "All is well" half way through the program?



Susan Leem's picture

Thanks so much for writing, I invite you to check our playlist to hear all the songs played in our shows:
I believe the song you're looking for is called "Come, Come Ye Saints" which holds a special meaning for Joanna Brooks and other Mormons. She tells that story in our unedited interview (also on our site)!

oh and no one gives damn about your underwear, what concerns me is your phony fraudulent founder Joe Smith and the insane cult of Moronism that was created by this illiterate grifter...Planet Kolob SERIOUSLY?

Earth Shattering. "I didn't know that"! What an unbelievable comment by Krista, who is my mind was one of the most intelligent persons I've ever listened to. Not to know the Marriott Chain was Morman owned.

Sorry, the history of Mormonism is more explorable due to its relatively "new" status compared to other Christian sects, and its history is sufficient to prevent me from subscribing to its "doctrines" and "beliefs" or even giving those doctrines or beliefs any exemption from severe criticism.
Virgin birth, resurrection, vicarious redemption via human sacrifice (based, obviously, on a god's need for some form of sacrifice- namely animal), heaven/hell, writtern words treated as the "word of god," etc., are hard enough to swallow - now add to that the history of Joseph Smith. Seriously?

I am constantly amazed at how hard many people work at trying to reconcile their beliefs with a certain religion, usually the one they grew up with. It almost seems as if they cannot bear thinking about having a spirituality that exists outside of that religion, even though there are things that they fundamentally disagree with about that religion. In the case of this thoughtful Mormon guest I kept thinking that she was trying so hard intellectually to justify being Mormon despite the many things she disagrees with about the official Mormon position on things. I think that an interesting program would be one that dealt with the point at which people actually break with their religion rather than trying to go through all kinds of mental gymnastics trying to reconcile with it.


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 heard just a few minutes of the interview this morning, but I think Joanna said, "Unitarians don't cry." I don't mean to make a huge issue of this, but DUH! Does she think that just because we have a reputation for being smart and intellectual, we don't have painful life experiences and emotions like everyone else. When my husband developed bi-polar disorder late in life and suddenly announced that he was leaving me after 21 years of marriage, I cried for hours. One night, eating alone at my kitchen counter, I literally saw my tears plop into my soup. (I've heard of crying in your beer, but we Unitarians also cry in our soup.) Maybe Joanna was just trying to be funny -- but please don't spread the rumor that we don't cry. We already have enough stupid stereotypes to deal with.

Thank you again for another good informative program. Joanna is a lovely intelligent young woman, seeking to balance her own personal evolution in feminism and faith with the structure and rules of a very strong and patriarchal religion. Not an easy task. I honor her honesty in sharing her life and beliefs. Part of what came through for me, however, 'between the lines', was the nervousness and unease in her voice as she tried to rationalize and justify issues she still struggles with, and the freedom and growth she will have to give up, to accept these 'obey'...which is so integral in her religion, as in so many. It is a high, and a hard, price to pay, but it is what one must agree to do for the reward of 'family', belonging, and the promise of an ongoing and "everlasting life".
It was too high a price for me to pay. I do understand, though, that it offers a safety and security that those of us who can no longer accept the beliefs and dictates of an organization must leave behind.
It is a sweet feeling to 'belong' - not something easily given up. A choice we each must make in our own heart.

What I was left with in the end, though, is the sadness I always feel when presented with beliefs that are so structured, so insular. By their very nature, as they are inclusive and caring of "their own", they are exclusive of everyone else, and all other beliefs. The rules that are given to make you feel "closer to God", or "chosen", by their nature encourage you to also feel special, better than those who do not believe the same, sending you on "missions" to convince all others of the "real truth". I believe she even used the phrase to "...take over the rest of the world."
More walls. More divisions. More separation. So much to still release before we realize that there is no "One Way", that we are all only one family.

That was a fine interview about Mormonism. There has been a lot of push by the church to show that it is more open and more diverse than what one would expect from talking to the average Mormon or listening to Glen Beck. Still, watching my friends who are in the Catholic group SNAP staying with the church while trying to change it, I see their point for staying (their culture) I don't know if I would have stayed. I see the same thing with Joanna. I think I would have changed something more freeing. Thank you for a difficult and fine interview.

Dear Krista Tippet,
I wake up to "On Being" many Sunday mornings, and sometimes listen at night.
I was surprised that you didn't know about the Marriotts and the fact that you can read The Book of Mormon in their hotels.
Also, ....I think that Governor Willard Mitt Romney was named for Willard Marriott.
Thanks for your program.
Yours, John Calwell

I am a non practicing Mormon and never knew until now that crying was an act of faith. I often joke that I should hire myself out as a professional crier: joy, grief, anger and every emotion between is expressed with tears in the mix. Even hearing Joanna Brooks admission brought on a little tearful laughter.

For all of the times I have listened and enjoyed your show and never written, Thank you. It is always a breath of clean air.

Blessings and gratitude to Joanna Brooks, and of coures to Krista T, for a deeply helpful and moving moment of reflection from Prof Brooks's outpost on the edges of her faith and subculture. Joanna had me crying, and we Seventh-day Adventists (another weird, restorationist, prophet-founded faith/subculture arising out of the Burned-Over District of 19th-century America) don't usually cry that much. (Don't remember ever seeing kleenex on an SDA pulpit.) So much is so familiar, especially the devastation of Joanna's early 20s faith transition in the midst of bureaucratic crack-down. I've been in the middle of two such disasters in my own career. I'm especially grateful for the model of 'Mormon Girl' ministering to those on the edges and in transition. It's a bit like what I do in my spiritual home--though I'm in a bit more exposed place working for a denominational school. Nevertheless, the bonds of faith and family run deep among us too, and I do my best to strengthen the bonds in honesty and truthfulness about how much we don't know for sure and how broken and limited we all are. Joanna offers this kind of ministry in exemplary fashion, and I draw strength for my calling from her example. Thanks again.

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