As promised last week, here is a sampling of what I learned about Mormonism from Dr. Wilder:
From Hymn 27, “Praise to the Man,” Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (1985), written before 1872, (p. 16)
Hail to the Prophet (Joseph Smith), ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren,
Death cannot conquer the hero again.
THE PRE-EXISTENCE: “…before the creation of the world, Heavenly Father had sired and Heavenly Mother had borne millions of their spirit children. After the world was created, these spirits eagerly awaited to come to earth to receive physical bodies. Only the righteous spirits who had followed Jesus (not Satan [Jesus’s brother]) in the pre-existence war in heaven were allowed … to come to earth. They longed to be born into a “righteous” family (Mormon), in which they could learn the “true gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mormonism).” (p. 45)
“…before the world was created, there was a war in heaven between Satan and Jesus. [As brothers, they] both proposed plans of salvation to the council in heaven. Satan wanted to force everyone to be saved, while Jesus wanted people to have free will to choose. Heavenly Father accepted Jesus’ plan, angering Satan, who began a war. When Satan lost, he and the spirits who followed him were cast to earth. Banished to roam, they sought bodies to inhabit…” (p. 56-57)
TEMPLE ORDINANCES: In 1979, Lynn and Michael made their first temple visit to receive the ordinances for their exaltation and eternal progression. Among many details of the ceremony, these statements stood out:
“[I was] told to step into the undergarment of the holy priesthood, which, if I were true to my temple covenants, would be a physical and spiritual ‘shield and protection’…” (p. 71)
“[I received] my worker-whispered new name, the one my righteous priesthood-holder husband would have to remember so he could call me up during the resurrection of my dead body in the future.” (p. 71)
MOVING TO “GOD’S COUNTRY”: In 1999, Lynn and her family moved to Utah, to take a job as a Brigham Young University (BYU, or “the Y”) professor.
“LDS ward buildings [churches] never have crosses, inside or out…Mormonism does not reverence the cross as a religious symbol.” (p. 100)
“Folks in Utah also had status based on family genes. Names like Young, Nielson, Call, Allred, Marriott [yep, of hotel fame], Romney [of presidential candidate fame], Huntsman [presidential primary candidate], Larsen, Jensen, and Beck [Glenn Beck converted to Mormonism, so I don’t know that this is the same family line] exuded importance. Mormon men who practised polygamy in the early years had produced progeny in no time.” (p. 105)
Polygamy is alive and well in Mormon country. They tend to live in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Some are Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and “actually [live] Joseph Smith’s D&C [Doctrine and Covenants] scripture,…hailing polygamy as an eternal principle [and] is still in LDS scripture.” “Polygamists are scattered throughout typical Utah neighborhoods, in huge homes with separate entrances for the various wives and their children.” (p. 106)
BYU: “My dean once reminded me, ‘Like the LDS Church, BYU is a theocracy, not a democracy.'” (p. 112)
RACISM: “African Americans were 1 percent of the population in Utah and barely half of 1 percent in Utah County.” There were a few other ethnic groups and the “13 percent Hispanic population was growing…but Utah was decidedly white.” (p. 119)
Until 1978, when the Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation, blacks were barred from the priesthood. (pp. 120-122)
Why? The curse of Cain. “…because Cain killed his brother, Abel, God cursed him with the mark of dark skin.” Or so Lynn was told the Bible says. Wrong! Actually this interpretation “is from distinctly Mormon scripture–…the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.” [More about the Book of Abraham below.] p. 124
Lynn writes quite a lengthy section on this topic in the chapter titled, “Teaching Diversity in a White-Bread Land.”
THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM: Since Joseph Smith was getting flack from some residents of Kirtland, Ohio, who were claiming he was a fraud, the local Mormons purchased an exhibition of four Egyptian mummies and some Egyptian papyri “to prove that Smith did indeed have the power to translate all ancient texts–a gift described in the Book of Mormon as that of a seer…”
At the time (1835) no linguist in the U.S. could read ancient Egyptian, “so Smith had no fear of scholarly reprisal.” He proceeded to translate the papyri calling it the Book of Abraham. He had “translated” the Book of Mormon from the golden plates, but they had been taken back up to heaven. This new “translation” was seen as proof by his followers that he was a seer.
In the 1960s the Egyptian papyri resurfaced at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. They were presented to the Mormon Church in 1967 amidst great excitment. “However, now linguists could decipher ancient Egyptian. Egyptologists translated Smith’s papyri. The Mormons held their breath… The papyri were common Egyptian funeral texts that said nothing about Abraham.” But, Mormons continue to this day “[clinging] to this scripture translated from the papyri as accurate.” (pp. 199-200)
You may purchase Dr. Wilder’s book at her website, UnveilingGraceTheBook.com.