Sunday, August 12, 2012

All right, back to being...

...snarky. In today's Times, Ross Douthat sings the praises of the Mormon Church (and thinks Mitt Romney should talk about it more): 

To spend some time in Salt Lake City and its environs, as I did earlier this summer, is to enter a world where faith, family and neighborliness really do seem to fill the role that liberals usually assign to the state. There you can tour the church-run welfare centers, with supermarkets filled with (Mormon-brand) products available to the poor of any faith and assembly lines where Mormon neurosurgeons and lawyers volunteer to can goods or run a bread machine. You can visit inner-city congregations where bank vice presidents from the suburbs spend their weekends helping drifters find steady work, and tour the missionary training center where Mormons from every background share a small-d democratic coming-of-age experience. 

And then you can read the statistics: the life expectancy numbers showing that Mormons live much longer than other Americans, the extraordinary rate at which they volunteer and donate, their high marriage rates and low out-of-wedlock birthrates — even the recent Gallup survey showing Utah leading all other states in a range of measures of livability. (My emphasis.) 

But it's hard to take that too seriously after reading Adam Gopnik's piece in the New Yorker (again, my emphasis): 

In the eighteen-twenties, in Palmyra, New York, a man named Joseph Smith—who had already been arrested for “glass looking,” the phony detection of underground treasures—said that an angel named Moroni had directed him to a set of buried golden plates, inscribed with an ancient script, which, after various stops and starts, Smith and a friend had translated into a Biblical-sounding English. The plates contained the Book of Mormon, the secret history of a native people of America, who turned out to be lost tribes of Israel. They had long ago emigrated to America, and were the ancestors of the contemporary Indians. These American Hebrews had divided, after long internecine warfare, into two groups, the Lamanites (mostly bad) and the Nephites (mostly good), and—during a trip somehow overlooked by the Gospels—had been visited by Jesus, after the Resurrection and before the Ascension. 

Can't a person live a good, wholesome life without buying into a belief system like that? After all, I've been married to the same woman for almost twenty-six years and I'm not religious. Like the Mormons, I don't drink or smoke or use bad language either (two out of three ain't bad). But, unlike Mormons, I try to keep it real. 

Why isn't the pursuit of truth considered more of a virtue?

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